sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, March 29, 2013

Weapon Review - Griffin Block 2B

This continues an intermittent series on weapons that are particularly adaptable to Special Operations Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) situations or so-called 'zombie wars'. The US Military is moving in a big way toward the Griffin surface-to-surface and air to surface missile as a replacement for the venerable Hellfire missile.

USS Independence  -  LCS 2
It looks cool and futuristic but it's been fraught with development problems
and is very vulnerable in any genuine combat environment.
I'm going to focus on the AGM-176 Griffin as a naval weapon here on this blog post. The US Navy has spent a lot of time and effort to adapt the Griffin as a weapon against small, fast moving boats (Somali Pirates and Iranian Boghammers). It intends to use them on the Littoral Combat Ships, which I believe will end up being a short production run simply because they don't do what they need to do: Short combat radius, limited ability to protect themselves from other than lightly armed speed boats, crew manning problems, too loud for special operations applications, etc. The list is long and I'm not going to dwell on it here.

USS Freedom - LCS 1
There are two hull designs for Littoral Combat Ships. LCS 1 is the other design.
In concept it suffers from the same endemic flaws as the other hull pattern above.
The Griffin is a short range weapon with a 5.5 km range when surface launched. Nearly point blank range from a naval perspective. The weapon system developed for use on UAV's/drone aircraft because three can be carried in the place of one Hellfire missile and the launch assembly is also lighter. I have no idea why the US Navy wants to spend the money it has spent for this system. The warhead will obliterate a 16 foot open boat of wooden construction. Is that the direction that the Navy is heading? Really? The weapon would seem to be accurate based on testing (HERE) (and HERE).

The most effective way to kill a 16-20 foot open boat is with a helicopter. Yes, both of these ships have helicopters as part as their compliment. However, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus clarified that, "The ship could operate in combat areas, as long as it remained under the protection of real warships." (Freedberg, Sydney J. Jr. "LCS Is Too A Real Warship, insists SECNAV April 2012.) The original estimated cost of a Littoral Combat Ship was initially $220 million. It's now $440 million.

$440 million is a lot of money for a ship that's intended to kill an open fishing boat loaded with Somali natives, which is also not expected to survive in a real combat environment.
TYPICAL Somali Pirate Boat
I don't have a problem with the Griffin as a helicopter launched missile or as an Army surface to surface missile, but it's simply silly to mount it on a ship to kill speed boats.

Cost of Griffin missile (each)                                     $450,000.00
Cost of wooden/plastic Somali fishing boat (each)   $   6,000.00 (estimated average)
The US Navy's DDG 51 Class destroyer that began with the USS Arleigh Burke is a far more capable platform than the LCS ships and unlike them, is likely to survive in a combat environment. 
Extended Range (61 nautical mile range) 5" 62 Caliber Mk 45 Mod 4 round (each) fired from a Destroyer -  $35,000

Are the US Navy's admirals insane?