PARIS — Recognizing that the Griffin missile won’t have the range needed by the US Navy to be deployed on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) when it is fully operational, the missile’s maker Raytheon is spending its own money to develop a new motor, as well as a new guidance system for the 33 lbs ordinance.
Raytheon had received a contract for the Navy to test its existing Griffin on LCS increment 1, but after concerns were voiced about the missile, the company is pushing to develop a new version.
“Right now, this version of the Griffin probably doesn’t ultimately have enough range for this customer so we’re on LCS increment 1 with this Griffin, but what we need to do is, with what we’re calling a Sea Griffin, we need to put a bigger motor on the Griffin and give it some more range,” said Harry Schulte, vice president of air warfare systems for Raytheon’s missile systems business. “We’ve got IRAD (independent research and development) money going into a bigger motor, and a low cost seeker.”
Rear Adm. Jim Murdoch, program executive officer for LCS at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Defense News in May that the Navy was looking for a competition to find a better solution than the existing Griffin.
One likely rival bidder to the Griffin is Europe’s MBDA.
The missile maker briefed reporters in Paris that it had successfully completed it’s first salvo firing of the new Sea Spear version of the Brimstone missile from a fixed platform off the coast of Scotland in May.
Sea Spear is being developed by MBDA as an answer to swarm attack fast patrol craft.
Fitted with a millimetric wave radar (MMW) the weapon destroyed three small boats, one moving at speed and the others static, in an autonomous firing at a range of around 4.5 miles.
MBDA executives at the briefing said the next trial will involve firing from a moving platform.
Using the MMW radar sensor the weapon started life as an air launched answer to counter large formations of armour in the event of a Cold War attack by the Soviets.
Now it’s aiming to do a similar job countering the swarms of fast attack craft used by the Iranian’s and others.
Subsequent to the initial application Brimstone was further developed into a weapon known as Dual Mode Brimstone — meaning it also carries a semi-active laser alongside the MMW sensor — for man-in-the-loop applications.
The weapon was widely used by the Royal Air Force in Afghanistan, and more recently Libya, where it generated the interest of the US Air Force as well as the US Navy and others.
“We really want to do a competition and award for an SSM that has a little longer range than the Griffin,” Murdoch said. “Ideally, what I’d like to have is autonomy — an autonomous seeker that you don’t have to designate with a laser to guide the missile on target.”
Schulte said that he expects to be able to make the improvements in time for the next LCS increment.
“LCS increment 1 will use the current Griffin, and basically assuming we can do some trials with the Navy and they’re happy with that, that will probably be a sole source capability,” he said. “LCS increment 2 will be competed, so we’ll have to compete with everyone else’s missile, and we’ll have to have that motor and that dual mode seeker ready. We’ve still got to prove all that, spend the money do the work.”
Company executives wouldn’t say exactly how much Raytheon was spending to improve the Griffin, although some of the cost is being shared by those in the missile’s supply chain.
Schulte said that the company has sold roughly 600 Griffin missiles in each of the last two years, and will be in the 500 to 600 range for sales in 2013.
Andrew Chuter contributed to this report.