TUCSON, Ariz.–The Navy’s decision to use the Hellfire Longbow as the surface missile on the Littoral Combat Ship could prove to be a costly one because it was not designed to operate off ships, according to a Raytheon [RTN] executive.

The Navy should instead reconsider the decision by taking a look at the Sea Griffin, a more advanced missile than the earlier Griffin system originally planned for the LCS, said John Hobday, a senior manager for business development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz.

The Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy
The Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy

The Navy announced in April that it was dumping the Raytheon-built Griffin missile in favor acquiring the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built Longbow from existing Army stockpiles, a move it said at the time would be cheaper.

Rear Adm. John Ailes, who was then the program manager for the LCS mission modules, told reporters the Longbow provided greater capability and range than the Griffin after seeing a demonstration and, unlike the Griffin, would not require keeping the target illuminated by a laser.

Hobday, in an interview, disputed the notion that the Longbow will come cheaply, saying it could be difficult to integrate onto the vessels and that any added benefits of range over the Griffin could be lost. He also noted that the Longbow was designed for air-launch to strike ground targets like tanks.

“There’s a big difference between that and making something launch vertically from the deck of a ship and rotate, turn itself in the right direction and establish a flight profile and then eventually hit a target,” Hobday said. “So that is not trivial, it tends to be very expensive.”

“We are conservatively estimating that it’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to modify something that was designed for another mission than it would be to take something that was designed specifically for vertical launch from a ship to hit another ship or a target at sea,” he added.

Hobday said the Sea Griffin will be an improved version of the Griffin, which was developed as a surface weapon for Navy patrol boats and can more readily be placed on a ship than the airborne Longbow. He said the Sea Griffin is designed to “double and almost triple” the four-nautical mile range of the Longbow.

Raytheon is currently testing the Sea Griffin and intends to have it ready to demonstrate to the Navy in a year, he said. In addition to increased range, Raytheon is improving its targeting capability, going beyond a laser-guided missile by adding an imaging infrared seeker and a data link to allow sailors to verify it is striking the intended target or, if needed, divert the missile, Hobday said, pointing out the “fire-and-forget” Longbow does not have that capability.

The Longbow “still doesn’t give you a positive target ID before engagement,” said Hobday, a former Navy captain. “Rules of engagement at sea are very, very strict…They have to positively identify it as a bad guy or they are not supposed to shoot at it.”

In congested sea areas threatening enemy boats could blend in with non-hostile craft, raising the risk of the wrong boat being hit and resulting in a scenario known in military circles as “fire and regret,” he said.

“A simple fire and forget is often referred to as a fire and regret if you can’t pull the missile off a target or you can’t identify what you’re shooting at,” he said.