Surface Forces: The Little Cure For Swarm Disease


June 17, 2012: The U.S. Navy recently revealed that it had successfully tested the Griffin B missile against speedboats in a live fire exercise. The speedboats were under remote control as they were hit by the small missiles. Iran has hundreds of armed speedboats and is suspected of planning to use "swarms" of these small craft against larger American ships. The speedboats could carry a hundred kg (220 pounds) of explosives as well as several men operating machine-guns and RPGs, making such attacks potentially very dangerous for large warships. But ships equipped with lots of small missiles (and large caliber machine-guns) would be able to destroy most swarm attacks.

Griffin B is the heavier surface launched version of the older air launched Griffin A. Griffin B weighs 20.5 kg (45 pounds) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. The missile is 1.1 meters (42 inches) long and 140mm (5.5 inches) in diameter. Griffin's range is 5,600 meters. Max range of a heavy machine-gun is about 2,000 meters. Griffin uses laser, GPS, and inertial guidance. The Griffins would be directed to their targets by a laser designator on the firing ship. The operator points the laser at the target, fires the Griffin, and within ten seconds the target is hit.

The Griffin B would replace, or supplement, the larger RAM missiles currently carried by many U.S. warships. The RAM missiles are 127mm in diameter, three meters (9.3 feet) long, and weigh 73.6 kg (162 pounds) each. The terminal guidance system is heat seeking. Basically, it uses the rocket motor and warhead from the Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the guidance system from the Stinger shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile. The 11 or 21 cell RAM launchers can be modified to accommodate the slightly wider Griffin. RAM missiles cost about $450,000 each, while Griffin B costs about a tenth of that. Griffin can be launched from a variety of other smaller launchers, some of which can be stored inside the ship until needed.

The U.S. Army is also testing the Griffin B missile as a replacement for the more expensive Javelin ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile). In Afghanistan troops at remote outposts use the Javelin as their own artillery, which is especially useful if they are out of range of American 155mm guns and so far from air bases that bombers or helicopter gunships would take a while to arrive. Javelin gets the job done but it is expensive ($75,000 per missile). Griffin is smaller, simpler, and dispenses with the expensive armor-piercing warhead. This is a much cheaper alternative to Javelin. The Griffin B is being tested in a six missile launcher that can be swiveled towards the target and missiles can be quickly fired at nearby threats.

Javelin, introduced in 2002, weighs 22.3 kg (49 pounds, with disposable launch tube and battery/seeker coolant unit) and is fired from a 6.4 kg (14 pound) CLU (command launch unit). The CLU contains a 4x day sight and a 9x heat sensing night sight. The missile has a tandem (two warheads to blast through reactive armor) that can hit a target straight on or from the top. This latter capability enables the Javelin to destroy any existing tank (including the U.S. M-1) with its 8.2 kg (18 pound) warhead. Maximum range is 2,500 meters. Best of all, the seeker on the missile is "fire and forget." That is, once the operator gets the target in the CLU crosshairs and fires the missile, the computer and seeker in the missile warhead memorizes the target and homes in on it. The infantry love this because it allows them to take cover once the missile is fired. All these additional capabilities are wasted in Afghanistan, where there are no tanks or other armored vehicles to shoot at, just groups of Taliban armed with rifles and RPGs.

U.S. troops have plenty of other heat sensing devices with which to find targets for their Griffins, which are basically small guided rockets. Just the kind of portable artillery the infantry favor. The army field tests will determine if the Griffin B performs effectively under battlefield conditions. In the meantime, the troops still have Javelin, which works just fine.





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