Surface Forces: Another Tiny Weapon For the LCS

January 14, 2011: The U.S. Navy has decided to equip its 3,000 ton LCS (Littoral Combat Ships) with a surface launched version of the Griffin air-to-surface missile. The Griffin is an alternative to the Hellfire II, which weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds) and carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead and has a range of 8,000 meters. In contrast, the Griffin weighs only 16 kg (35 pounds), with a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead which is larger, in proportion to its size, than the one carried by the larger Hellfire missile. Griffin has a pop-out wings, allowing it to glide, and thus has a longer range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire. UAVs can carry more of the smaller missiles, typically two of them in place of one Hellfire. The surface-launched Griffin weighs about twice as much as the air launched version, because of the addition of a rocket to get it into the air, after which it can glide to the target.

 LCS is currently armed with a 57mm gun, four 12.7mm machine-guns, and an eleven cell SeaRam system for aircraft and missile defense. The RAM (RIM-116 "Rolling Air Frame") missiles replace Phalanx autocannon. SeaRAM has a longer range (7.5 kilometers) than the Phalanx (two kilometers). But the navy has been seeking some compact anti-ship missiles to add to this arsenal.

The navy had, until about a year ago, planned to use U.S. Army PAM (Precision Attack Missile). This is a 178mm diameter missile that weighs 55 kg (120 pounds), and has a range of 40 kilometers. PAM attacks from above, with a 13.2 kg (28 pound) warhead. This enabled it to kill any tank by hitting the thinner top armor. PAMs are vertically-launched from what looks like a 1.3x1.9x1.3 meter (4x6x4 foot wide x deep x high) cargo container. Actually, it IS a cargo container. The missiles are shipped from the factory in this sealed container. Each one ton container holds 15 missiles and can be carried on the back of a truck, or a ship. Once you plug a PAM container into the wireless battlefield Internet, the missiles are ready to fire. The fire control officer on the LCS can send one or more PAMs against any enemy target that shows up on their screen (usually a larger flat screen.) The battlefield Internet is using aircraft, UAVs, satellites and ground sensors to pick up targets for LCS. When the fire control officer sees a target he wants to kill, a point and click will send the coordinates of the target to a PAM container on board, launch a PAM to the approximate location where the missile's own sensor will pick up the target and home in on it. The problem with PAM was that the army cancelled the project because of cost and technical problems. At first, the navy thought it could complete development, but changed their mind when the surface-launched Griffin came along.

There were few good alternatives here, as the LCS isn't really big enough to handle the standard navy VLS (Vertical Launch System), which handles much larger anti-aircraft, anti-ship and cruise missiles in other ships. But the Griffin, and the earlier PAM, were criticized for having limited anti-ship capability (because of small warheads.)

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