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Griffin Missiles Arm Navy’s Smallest Combatants

The U.S. Navy’s smallest combatant, the 179-foot Coastal Patrol (PC), is armed with one of the Navy’s smallest missiles, the Griffin, giving the PCs a lethal weapon against fast attack craft.

Griffin is not new. It’s been around since 2008 as an air launched weapon that could engage targets on the ground from aircraft not normally having such a capability, like a C-130 Hercules.

Today, five of the U.S. Navy’s ten forward deployed PCs operating from Bahrain have Griffin, and the others will have it installed in 2015. The missiles are carried in fixed launchers which carry four containerized missiles, and mounted amidships in pairs facing to port and starboard on what was formally the Stinger deck, where the ships’ previously-mounted Stinger missile launchers were located.

The Bright Star is specifically used for Griffin (the PC’s two remotely operated 25mm guns have their own cameras). “The camera is phenomenal,” Weinheimer says.

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class John Weinheimer of USS Monsoon (PC 4) says the Griffin’s Battle Management System (BMS) uses a ruggedized “Toughbook” laptop and is operated from the bridge. The BMS – which is linked to the ship’s computer system and draws position information from the ship’s GPS – presents the target imagery from the Bright Star EO/IR camera sensor mounted on the mast. The system locks onto and tracks the target, lases it, and then initiates the firing sequence.

Griffin Cyclone-class

The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Sirocco (PC 6) transits in the Arabian Gulf during a simulated strait transit while participating in Spartan Kopis 15-01. The Griffin missile box launchers are mounted amidships. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony R. Martinez

“It’s a laser-guided weapon, so the target must be continually lased until the missile hits the target,” Weinheimer says.

Because of the atmospheric limitations of lasers, the optimal range to engage the target is between about two to three nautical miles.

The Bright Star is specifically used for Griffin (the PC’s two remotely operated 25mm guns have their own cameras). “The camera is phenomenal,” Weinheimer says.

“This is the quarterback that puts the whole game together,” says Weinheimer of the BMS.

The PC-based BMS was developed by Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren in Virginia, based on the BMS for the C-130 launched version, while the launchers were fabricated by NSWC Corona in California.

“The missile was originally designed to be dropped out of a C-130,” says Chief Gunner’s Mate Jeremiah Ketels of USS Monsoon. “They would have a full view of the battlefield, designate the target with the laser, and it would go down and strike. “The shipboard version needs a secondary booster to get it out of the launcher and on its way, and you have to keep lasing the target continuously.”

Monsoon Griffin

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class John Weinheimer and Chief Gunner’s Mate Jeremiah Ketels stand next to the portside Griffin launcher of USS Monsoon (PC 4). Photo by Lt. Jason Stringfield

Weinheimer says there is adequate stateside training to prepare crewmembers to use the system, but an onboard training capability is needed to retain proficiency and practice different engagement scenarios. A Mobile Training Team (MTT) is being looked at to provide the needed proficiency training semi-annually in Bahrain.

The 331-ton PCs have a crew of four officers and 24 enlisted, and can achieve speeds of 35 knots.

Capt. Phil Sobeck, deputy commander of Destroyer Squadron Fifty, which has operational control of the PCs, says Griffin provides a layered self-defense for the PC against a stacked threat. “It allows you to go after the most threatening target,” he says.

Close Quarters

“It is a valuable weapon for close quarters in the littoral,” says Ron Jenkins, director of Littoral Combat Ship systems for Raytheon Missile Systems.

The missile weighs just 34 lbs., with an additional 17 inches of length and 18 lbs. of weight for the extended range version.

Griffin can be launched from fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and ground launched from a vehicle. It was recently test fired from a V-22 Osprey.

Griffin box launcher

Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, commander of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), left, Troy Clarke, NSWC Corona public affairs officer, and Arman Hovakemian, NSWC Corona chief technology officer, discuss the Griffin missile launcher as an example of NSWC Corona’s rapid prototyping capability. U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko

The sea-launched Griffin B version is slightly different from the air-launched Griffin A weapon. The shipboard variant is forward firing and launched at a fixed angle and needing a boost to get clear of the ship, whereas the air launched version is “gravity launched” by being aft ejected from its launch tube on the firing platform before igniting its flight rocket motor.

The missile weighs just 34 lbs., with an additional 17 inches of length and 18 lbs. of weight for the extended range version. While the PCs currently have no reload capability it is quite possible to have a topside magazine and carry extra containerized rounds that can be loaded individually by hand. There are a few simple connections between the canister and launcher.

Jenkins says the next generation of Griffin will feature a dual mode seeker and extended range rocket motor. The new configuration allows the operator to change targets in mid-flight to be able to engage a higher priority threat.

Since it entered production, Raytheon has delivered more than 2,500 Griffin missiles. “There’s quite a demand signal,” Jenkins says. “The factory’s been hot since 2008.”

Courtesy of Surface SITREP.  Republished with permission of the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org)

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...