Questions-réponses sur le choix du missile Longbow Hellfire pour les "Mission Packages" lutte anti-navires des LCS | Newsletter navale |

The United States Navy announced in April in this year that it had selected Lockheed Martin’s Longbow Hellfire AGM-114L for the surface-to-surface missile for early increments and testing for the surface warfare (SuW) mission package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Navy Recognition recently contacted the U.S. Navy to learn more about this new capability for both types of LCSs.

The Longbow Hellfire AGM-114L is a fire-and-forget missile that locks on targets before or after launch. It has been used in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The missile was The Longbow Hellfire originally designed to be launched from the radar-equipped AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopter. It is fitted with a millimeter wave seeker which is an advantage for use in maritime environment. The Longbow Hellfire is 69 in (176 cm) long with a weight of 108 lb (49 kg). When launched from the air, it has range of up to 4.3 nautical miles (8 kilometers).

Navy Recogniton (NR): Is the selection of Hellfire an interim (stop gap) decision? Could there be another surface to surface missile competition for the LCS in the near future or will Hellfire be the exclusive ASUW missile onboard LCS for a long time?
U.S. Navy (USN): Longbow Hellfire is the selected missile to help meet the LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package’s (SUW MP) engagement requirement per the LCS Capabilities Description Document (Flight 0+). Currently, no new requirement exists to warrant acquisition of a new engagement capability.

NR: Is the Hellfire AGM-114L to be fitted on board the LCS the exact same missile as the one used by the US Army ? (no variation in size, warhead, electronics?)
USN: The exact same hardware will be fitted into the SUW MP. Modifications will be made to the missile software to adapt it for vertical launch capability and optimize against small boats.

NR: Was the Hellfire selected for both Independence class and Freedom class LCS?
USN: The Longbow Hellfire missile was selected for the SUW MP, which is required to function on both ship variants.

NR: How many launchers will be fitted on each LCS?
USN: An LCS variant can only receive one SUW mission package. This will have one Surface-to-surface Missile Module (SSMM), which will utilize one launcher structure that holds 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles. The SSMM will be contained within an LCS weapon station, of which there are three on each LCS variant.

NR: Will the crew be able to reload the launchers while at sea?
USN: There currently is no requirement for at-sea reloads.Therefore, the current SSMM design does not support at-sea reloads.

NR: What type of launcher will be used? VLS or inclined canisters (like Harpoon)?
USN: The custom launcher structure design will enable vertical launch out of one of the LCS weapon stations. It utilizes an existing Army M299 launcher mounted within a gas containment system.

: Can you communicate the range, speed, warhead size of the Hellfire to be fitted on the LCS?
USN: Overall Longbow Hellfire characteristics are published by the US Army (ed. note: see above). Missile range, due to vertical launch, is currently being determined.

: Could the MH-60R typically found onboard LCS fire the exact same Hellfire missile?
USN: Physically, yes. The ship and helicopter fire control systems are different; the Navy will demonstrate the capability in the future.

NR: Can you give some of the reasons that conducted the US Navy to select the Hellfire over the competitors?
USN: Longbow Hellfire was chosen for the following reasons: potential effectiveness against LCS surface threats, availability of Longbow Hellfire rounds in Army inventory, and technical maturity of the required components for an end-to-end capability. The Government conducted an assessment to determine the feasibility of incorporating this missile system into a LCS SUW SSMM. In November 2013 the Government conducted a risk reduction test of the Longbow Hellfire against LCS surface threat-representative targets. Favorable conclusions to both the assessment and the test led to the selection of this missile system.

NR: Finally will the LCS launched Hellfire be used exclusively to counter Fast Attack Craft/very light surface targets or could they potentially be used to disable larger (corvette sized) vessels or even provide some kind of coastal/shore fire support ?
USN: The LCS SUW SSMM, which will be based on the Longbow Hellfire missile system, is being developed to support LCS in responding to its surface warfare mission against small boat threats. Other target sets could be considered, dependent upon Fleet needs.