As we all know, the current plan to beef up the anemic ASuW capability of the LCS is to incorporate the AGM-114L Longbow (Apache helo) Hellfire missile. The Hellfire replaces the Griffon missile that the Navy briefly considered. Here’s a few Hellfire specs.
Range: 500 yds – 5 miles (likely less with a sea level vertical launch)
Seeker: millimeter wave radar
Speed: Mach 1.3
Warhead: 20 lb, high explosive anti-tank (HEAT)
The missile’s active radar seeker gives it a fire-and-forget capability which, in turn, gives it the ability to engage multiple targets in a short time frame. This is ideal for the small boat swarm scenario. Hellfire is proven, lethal to small boats, and cheap enough ($100K+ per missile) to justify using for the intended purpose.
On the other hand, the Hellfire’s target set is extremely limited. The target is strictly small boats that must close to a few miles or less to attack. Presumably, this means small boats armed with RPGs and machine guns. Larger missile carrying boats and fast attack craft (FAC) armed with small anti-ship missiles far outrange the LCS’ Hellfire and, thus, are not an applicable target set.
Still, assuming the Hellfire launch system does not wind up taking up too much deck space or internal ship’s volume, the missile is easily justified despite its limited target set.
The other question is whether the Hellfire will become part of the core seaframe capability or will be present only as part of the ASuW module. Again, assuming the space and weight requirement is minimal, the missiles ought to be part of the seaframe although this is somewhat at odds with the Navy’s original intention of modular outfitting. Of course, even the Navy has essentially admitted that the modular concept won’t work for the LCS.
All in all, the Hellfire represents a good choice for the intended target set and can’t help but improve the LCS’ overall capability, at least to some small extent. A small step in the right direction for the LCS!