The Navy seems to be committed to mounting the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile on the LCS for use against small craft. Hellfire had previously been tested in March 2017 for launch capability and the Navy was working on problems with tip over – trying to get the missile to tip over from the vertical launch to horizontal flight and pick up the target. That issue has apparently been solved, at least enough to allow further testing.
USNI News website reports that the Navy conducted a live fire test in which four Hellfires were vertically launched from the USS Milwaukee, LCS-5, cued from ship’s radar and “other systems”, and hit small craft targets. Thus, the test appears to have been an integrated launch using the ship’s combat control system. The conditions of the test and the results are unknown although the Navy released footage showing one missile hitting a target. Whether the other missiles hit is unknown. The targets appeared to be moving although speed and range were not stated and it is unknown whether the targets were maneuvering. The website article contains a brief video of the launch, if you’re interested. (1)
Just to refresh, here’s a few specs on the Longbow Hellfire, which is the Apache helicopter version of the missile.
Weight 100 lbs
Length 64 in
Diameter 7 in
Seeker millimeter wave radar
Warhead 20 lbs
Range ~4 miles with a minimum safe range of 546 yds
Hellfire missiles have a variety of warhead types (fragmentation, shaped charge, etc.) and it is unknown which type or types will be used by the LCS.
|LCS Hellfire Launch|
Range is less than for helo launched missiles due to the vertical launch.
The LCS launcher appears to be an adaptation of the Army M299 launcher in an embedded box mounted in the former NLOS weapon pit. The launcher can hold 24 missiles. (2)
Recall the lineage of this LCS weapon.
- The original surface to surface missile for the LCS was to have been the Non-Line of Sight (NLOS) networked munition
- After cancellation of NLOS, the Navy looked to develop a custom replacement missile but dropped this project.
missile was announced in 2011 as the next replacement but was also dropped. Griffin
Note that the Navy has still not officially committed to the Hellfire. The project is considered developmental and is due to wrap up in 2019-20 at which point a decision will be made about deploying the system.
Successful integration of the Longbow Hellfire missile into the LCS will finally provide a credible anti-swarm capability. Of course, the range is too short and the warhead too small to be a serious threat to corvette or larger size ships. Thus, the Hellfire will offer a substantial improvement over the current, well … nothing, but still falls woefully short of the original anti-surface and land attack requirement of the ASuW module.
(1)USNI News website, “USS Milwaukee Launches Hellfires in LCS Surface-to-Surface Missile Module Test”, Megan Eckstein,
(2)Navy Recognition, “Q & A with the U.S. Navy on Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles for Littoral Combat Ships”,