The Longbow HELLFIRE is showing its versatility by being adapted to a maritime platform. Normally carried on aviation platforms like the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the US Navy is looking to carry it on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

HELLFIRE on the Littoral Combat Ship?  It may sound strange to some, but when you think of what the missile can be used for–such as defending the ship against a swarm of small boats–it makes sense.

“Both the 30mm guns and the Longbow HELLFIRE are designed to go after that fast attack aircraft and high speed boats coming into attack LCS typically in a swarm raid type of configuration,” Capt. Casey Moton, LCS Mission Modules Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The missile system could engage a large number of targets. It would likely be employed in tandem with 30mm and 57mm guns.  However, since HELLFIRE is a relatively small missile, the usefulness of the missile on large surface vessels would be limited.

One of the advantages of the Longbow HELLFIRE missile version is that it uses “millimeter wave” guidance.  Millimeter Wave or seeker technology is “all-weather” capable because it can penetrate rain, clouds and other obscurants. Shorter-wavelength signals such as those found in the infrared spectrum suffer from absorption by rain, fog, dust, and smoke resulting in a distorted picture. The longer wave is able to “paint” a better radar picture.

The LCS version also would guide to the target slightly differently than its older version.

“With a helicopter, HELLFIRE often locks onto a target before launch (RF guidance). With LCS, the missile turns on its seeker after launch. We did 12 missile shots in the last year and had successful engagements with 10 of them,” Moton explained.

The Longbow, which will be deck launched from the LCS, will be used in conjunction with the FireScout UAV.  FireScout is the Navy’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) UAV. The thought is FireScout will be able to survey the battlefield and appropriately target HELLFIRE to multiple targets in the vicinity. The FireScout would use video imagery to identify threats that would then be sent back to fire controllers on the ship.

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Top Photo credit: Deagel,com