PEO LCS Begins At Sea Testing of Modified Longbow Hellfire Missile

March 5, 2015 11:53 AM
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) on Nov. 25, 2014. US Navy Photo
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) on Nov. 25, 2014. US Navy Photo

The Program Executive Office for Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) began a series of tests on its modified Longbow Hellfire missile from a surrogate test platform, with a successful first test after some weather delays.

The LCS surface warfare mission package reached initial operational capability (IOC) in November with its 30mm gun and 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats, and the next step is to add a missile to counter the fast inshore attack craft threat, Capt. Casey Moton, LCS mission modules program manager, said at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ ASNE Day 2015 on Wednesday.

To defeat the small boat threat, the Navy chose Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire radar-guided missile, with some modifications. Moton said the Hellfire missiles, acquired from the Army, was designed to launch horizontally from beneath a helicopter, so it needed to be adjusted to create a “maritime vertical launch configuration.”

“[The missile] gets told where the target is by the combat system; the missile has to launch vertically; it’s got to tip over; it’s got to find, with the missile’s radar, it’s got to find that target; and then it’s got to go engage the target,” Moton explained to USNI News after his presentation at ASNE Day 2015.

“The first of several test runs was last week. And we were successful,” he said. The test took place in the Virginia Capes test complex and was conducted from a test platform, not an LCS.

“I’m cautious because we got held up by weather, there’s a lot more testing to go. One test does not make a victory, but it was still successful,” Moton said.

Longbow AGM-114L Hellfire
Longbow AGM-114L Hellfire

It is unclear how soon the program will be able to continue its testing, he said, since bad weather delayed testing for several Navy programs. But he said he hopes to finish this series of tests soon, which will include variations in “how many targets are coming in, and what bearing they are, and are they just straight running or are they maneuvering. So there’s a whole series. This is the first test, and then we have a whole other series of tests set up later this year, so there’s a lot more to come.”

In addition to keeping the shorter-range Longbow Hellfire missile, the Navy will also add an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile (ASM) to the LCS-based future frigate. The Navy has not picked which ASM system to use, but a September test of the Norwegian Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile from the USS Coronado (LCS-4) proved successful.

During his presentation, Moton also said that the mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package testing was moving along well and preparing for its final operational tests for the first increment of the mission package sometime later this year.

PEO LCS ran the mission package through a developmental test last fall that included operations with airborne systems and the unmanned underwater Remote Minehunting System “and had very good success,” Moton said. Program officials have already embarked an MCM mission package onto the USS Independence (LCS-2) for a technical evaluation in Pensacola, Fla. Afterwards, the program plans to conduct initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) in July.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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