In 2016 the Navy will conduct another series of tests of a modified, vertically-launched Longbow Hellfire missile before integrating it on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in 2017, a program official said May 17.

The service will fire four shots from test ship USNS Relentless, which—if successful—will wrap up demonstrations on that vessel, said Capt. Casey Moton, Navy program manager for the LCS mission modules.

Modified Longbow Hellfire missiles, which will be incorporated aboard the Littoral Combat Ship, strike test targets during a 2015 demonstration. (Photo: Navy)

So far, there have been 12 test launches of the marinized AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire, which the Navy is adapting from the helicopter-launched Army version. Ten of those shots have been successful, and the service has determined what went wrong during the two failed shots, he said during a briefing at the Sea-Air-Space exposition. 

During one of those missed shots, the missile lost its lock on the target. The Navy believes it has resolved the issue through software modifications and will test out the fix during the 2016 demo.

“It was always our plan to do these series of shots, then stop, look at the launches,” Moton said. “The four shots that we planned for later this year are not shots that we had to add because we had a problem.”

The Longbow Hellfire is planned to be incorporated into the LCS’s surface warfare mission module. Once fielded, all three versions of the ship—the Independence-class LCS, Freedom-class LCS and frigate variant—will have a new tool for defeating inbound, high-speed craft.

“From my standpoint, the missile is on track,” he said.

The process of integrating Longbow Hellfire onto the LCS will kick off in fiscal 2017, Moton said. First, the Navy will conduct “dry fire” tests to prove that the missile and ship’s combat system mesh properly. Then live fire demonstrations will begin, before proceeding into developmental and operational tests.

“Right now, at least based on current schedules, I would predict that we would test off of a Freedom variant first,” he said. “That’s driven by nothing more than ship availability and timing.”

The AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire is built by Lockheed Martin [LMT].