For the first time, the US Army has successfully launched AGM-114L Longbow missiles vertically against maritime targets — making the weapon a likely candidate for use aboard ships.
The capability is important, and has been in the making for the last few years due in large part to Iran’s maritime strategy.
“With its flotilla of speedboats, fleet of submarines, and huge inventory of missiles and mines, Iran is in the position to inflict some damage on the U.S. fleet if for no other reason that it has such a wide array of vessels to attack,” wrote Business Insider’s Robert Johnson on the eve of new sanctions on Iran in 2012.
At the time, Joby Warick of The Washington Post revealed that Naval planners at the Pentagon looked at engaging Iran’s Navy in the Hormuz Strait as a “nightmare scenario.”
From Washington Post:
These highly manoeuvrable small boats, some barely as long as a subway car, have become a cornerstone of Iran’s strategy for defending the gulf against a much larger adversary. The vessels can rapidly deploy Iran’s estimated 2,000 anti-ship mines or mass in groups to strike large warships from multiple sides at once, like a cloud of wasps attacking much larger prey.
Since then, those same planners have been in high gear developing missiles with the capability of intercepting multiple, high-speed moving targets in a maritime environment.
The Navy’s recent demonstration involved firing multiple missiles from a vertical 65-foot launch fixture aboard a Navy ship near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The “fire-and-forget” Longbow missile withstands adverse weather and battlefield conditions, such as smoke and fog that deter target positioning on other technologies.
Other private defence companies have ventured into creating more littoral attack systems. Late last year, Raytheon’s MK-60 Patrol Coastal Griffin Missile System was integrated on a Cyclone-class Patrol Coastal-class ship, and employed against remote-controlled boats simulating enemy targets.
Robert Caruso, former assistant command security manager in the Navy and defence consultant said the Griffin missile allows the US military to engage from a safer distanced position.
“The Griffin missile is notable in that it’s completely modular, and can be launched on a ship to attack static land targets or mobile targets like these small crafts,” Caruso said.
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