Raytheon’s Griffin Mini-Missiles
As UAVs proliferate, and the demands of counter-insurgency fights force militaries to look at arming new kinds of aircraft, a number of manufacturers and governments are looking to develop precision-guided “mini-missiles” and glide weapons. Raytheon’s 33+ pound, 42 inch long Griffin is a member of that class, and comes in 2 versions.
The Griffin-A version is currently in use as part of American roll-on armed kits for its C-130 Hercules transports. It’s dropped out of “gunslinger” tubes, providing precision firepower from the rear ramp. The Griffin B is a forward-firing weapon that can be launched from land, naval, or aerial platforms. Either way, the missile packs a 13 pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and uses a combination of GPS/INS and a semi-active laser seeker for guidance. Griffin-B is currently a candidate to equip the Littoral Combat Ship’s surface warfare module.
Griffin And Its Uses
Griffin was privately developed, and Raytheon took pains to re-use components from existing weapons like the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-air missile, and the Javelin anti-tank missile.
The Griffin’s estimated range is similar to the larger AGM-114 Hellfire: about 3.5 miles if surface-launched without a booster motor, rising to 12.5 miles or more if fired from an aerial platform at altitude. That’s fine for aerial platforms, as Griffin A/B offers them the ability to carry more Griffins than Hellfires, and achieve similar reach and precision, with less collateral damage.
There are still targets like tanks that will demand a larger AGM-114 Hellfire missile, and targets like buildings may demand a full-size AGM-65 Maverick missile or LJDAM bomb. In many cases, however, the Griffin offers a “just enough, for less” solution.
Confirmed Platforms: KC-130J Harvest Hawk, MC-130W Combat Spear, MQ-1 Predator UAV, MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV, MQ-9 Reaper UAV. Also tested using a ground-launch system, and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter.
The Army is testing the 45-pound, powered Griffin B missile as an option for forward outposts. Raytheon’s own Javelin missile is already widely deployed, and offers similar range and firepower. Javelin is a rather expensive missile, and takes some time to activate and reload, but comes with advanced sensors that troops use independently. Griffin will have to compete on cost and response time/volume, in order to achieve acceptance. It ability to receive geo-cordinate cues from UAVs and other sensors, without the need for an operator to find the same target himself, may provide it with the edge it needs.
On the naval front, the picture isn’t as rosy. Griffin-B reportedly costs about half as much as the Raytheon NLOS-LS PAM, but its surface-launched range is less than 1/6th of NLOS-LS PAM’s 21 nautical miles. This severe cut in reach, coupled with the warhead’s small size, will sharply limit the Littoral Combat Ship’s already-poor ability to fight at range. Griffins could engage enemy speedboats, but can’t function as naval fire support for ground forces, or do much damage to full-size enemy vessels – most of which will pack large anti-ship missiles with a 50+ mile reach.
This hasn’t stopped the Navy from designating the Griffin as an interim solution anyway, but unless Griffin B finds a future niche on small USVs, or as a roll-on kit for non-combatant and patrol ships, it isn’t likely to have a big-ticket naval future.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, the USAF’s Air Armament Center Contracting, Advanced Programs Division at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages these contracts, though U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL also seems to have its share. The contractor is Raytheon Missiles Systems Co. in Tucson, AZ.
July 22/13: GAO Report. The US GAO releases GAO-13-530, “Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost”. The entire report is a long chronicle of the Littoral Combat Ship program’s history of falling short and unresolved issues, including a number of issues with the mission modules. While Griffin missiles have been deployed on Cyclone Class patrol boats, GAO says they may never be deployed aboard LCS:
“The Navy assessed over 50 potential missile replacements for LCS, and in January 2011 selected the Griffin IIB missile as an interim solution based, in part, on it costing half of [NLOS-LS per missile]. The program now intends to purchase one unit with a total of eight Griffin IIB missiles, to be fielded in 2015, which leave other SUW module equipped ships with a limited ability to counter surface threats. However, Navy officials told us that they may reconsider this plan because of funding cuts related to sequestration. According to OPNAV, funding for Griffin development and testing has been suspended for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. OPNAV and the LCS program office, with LCS Council oversight, plan to investigate using a more cost-effective, government-owned, surface-to-surface missile system that would provide increased capability, including increased range. According to Navy program officials, the deployment of the Increment IV [Griffin successor] missile could also be delayed by over a year [i.e. to 2020] because funding reductions have delayed early engineering work and proposal development for the missile contract.”
June 12/12: Raytheon reveals a winter 2012 test in which 3 Griffin missiles were fired from a sea-based launcher at 3 separate speeding-boat targets more than 2 km / 1.2 miles away. The weapons were guided by laser, and scored direct hits on the targets.
The test demonstrates that the Griffin can defend a warship against speedboats that venture inside mutual torpedo range. Unfortunately, those with a grasp of naval history might recall Royal Navy Captain Augustus Willington Shelton Agar, VC, DSO. As a Lieutenant, he sank the Russian heavy cruiser Oleg and a submarine depot ship, and badly damaged 2 battleships in 1919, using torpedo-armed speedboats launched from the Terijoki Yacht Club in Finland.
May 29/12: An $8.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification buys “Griffin stand-off precision guided munitions” and engineering services support. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages this contract. (W31P4Q-10-C-0239).
This contract pushes announced contracts to date over $166 million.
May 18/12: An $85.5 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy 22 Griffin all-up-rounds, and 43 telemetry rounds for testing. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run until July 31/13 (FA8677-12-D-0037).
Feb 14/12: Army testing Griffin. Raytheon announces that the US Army is testing its powered Griffin B as a potential system to provide 360 degree quick-reaction firepower to smaller outposts. Raytheon’s Javelin missile can already do this within the Griffin’s firing range, so the Griffin will have to compete on cost, responsiveness, and fire volume:
“During the test, warfigthers fired a Griffin missile from a launcher at a static target more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away. Using GPS coordinates generated by a tethered aerostat, the missile directly impacted the target, achieving all test objectives.”
Nov 7/11: Inside the Navy reports [subscription] that the Griffin missile will be part of LCS’ initial surface warfare module, but a competition will begin in 2012, and:
“The program executive office for the Littoral Combat Ship has already identified capabilities that could replace the Griffin missile…”
The new missile would be due for fielding after FY 2016. One possibility that’s already on the market is IAI’s Jumper.
Nov 7/11: Inside the Navy reports [subscription] on Griffin usage in Afghanistan:
“Less than a year after first introducing it to the fleet, the Marine Corps has already used the Harvest Hawk… to fire 74 Hellfire and 13 Griffin missiles… while also providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, a Marine aviation official said here recently.”
Nov 2/11: A $9.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 70 Griffin Block IIA all up rounds, and 21 Griffin Block II A telemetry rounds that replace the warhead with testing electronics. The primary location of performance is Tucson, AZ, and the purchase supports U.S. Special Operations Command (FA8677-11-C-0115, PO 0008).
Aug 19/11: Aviation Week reports on 2 key milestones for the MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter UAV program. One is the addition of the larger MQ-8C/ Fire-X. The other is weapons approval for the MQ-8B, beginning with the APKWS-II laser-guided 70mm rocket that’s already cleared for use from Navy ships.
Raytheon’s laser-guided short-range Griffin mini-missile is slated for a demonstration before the end of August 2011, and will be the platform’s next weapon, as opposed to Northrop Grumman’s own GBU-44 Viper Strike.
Aug 15/11: An $11.5 million firm-fixed-price cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for an unspecified number of Griffin missiles, and associated engineering services support. Work location will be determined by task order, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-10-C-0239).
July 14/11: A $9.1 million contract modification to buy 4 Griffin Block II A telemetry rounds for testing (part number 2292000-25), and 74 Griffin Block IIA all up rounds (Part Number 2292000-26) to include shipping, engineering services, and proposal development costs.
This is the initial order for the Griffin missile, which has uses on UAVs and armed C-130s, as well as a potential future aboard the LCS (FA9200-11-C-0180, PZ0003).
May 12/11: Inside the Navy reports:
“The Navy may not have settled on the Griffin missile to replace the canceled Non-Line-Of-Sight missile on the Littoral Combat Ship, despite the service’s announcement in January that it planned to use the missile for both a short-term and long-term solution to the capability gap, officials told Inside the Navy last week…”
Jan 11/11: Media report that the U.S. Navy is moving towards selecting Raytheon’s Griffin missile as the replacement for the cancelled NLOS-LS, instead of taking over that program’s development now that the Army has pulled out. USN surface warfare division director Rear Adm. Frank Pandolfe told a Surface Navy Association convention audience in Arlington, VA that a 6-month review had settled on this Raytheon product, as something that can hit targets at “acceptable” ranges and cost.
That recommendation must be endorsed by the Navy before anything comes of this; if they do, the service would field the existing very short range Griffin by 2015, and try to develop a longer range version later. DoD Buzz | Arizona Daily Star.
Sept 8/10: Flight International reports that the Griffin is being integrated onto MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. They are not specific, but these are probably US Special Operations Command’s modified MALET drones.
June 9/09: A $14.5 million firm-fixed-price with cost-plus-fixed-fee line items contract for Griffin A & B munitions and engineering services. Even the air-launched versions have ranges of just 9+ miles, however, and at this point, Griffin is not on the radar screen for use on LCS.
Work is to be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of May 31/10. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Army Aviation and Missile Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-09-C-0517).
Dec 24/08: A firm-fixed-price with cost-plus-fixed-fee line items contract for Griffin munitions and engineering services. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/09. One bid was solicited and one bid received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-08-C-0252).
Aug 13/08: A $6.1 million firm-fixed price with cost-plus fixed fee line items contract for Griffin munitions and engineering services. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/09. One bid was solicited on Feb 5/08 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-08-C-0252).
At this point, NLOS-LS is still a program in good standing, and Griffin is seen as a UAV and helicopter weapon. The prospect of equipping an MQ-1A/B Predator with 6 Griffins instead of 2 Hellfires is seen as especially attractive. See also Aviation Week.
May 23/08: A $10.25 million firm-fixed price contract for Griffin munitions. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 31/09. One bid was solicited on Feb 5/08 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-08-C-0252).
May 7/08: A $9.4 million firm-fixed price contract with cost-plus-fixed fee items for Griffin munitions, and associated engineering services. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be completed by Dec 31/08. One bid was solicited on Feb 5/08 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-08-C-0252).
- Raytheon – AUSA 2010: Griffin and Small Tactical Munition
- Defense Update – Griffin [and] Small Tactical Munition (STM); Griffin B
- DID- The Right to Bear Arms: Gunship Kits for America’s C-130s
- DID – The USA’s New Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Griffin-B may replace the canceled NLOS-LS PAM missile.
- DID – Arming RQ-7 UAVs: The Shadow Knows…. Even Griffin may be too heavy for the RQ-7, though…
- DID – GBU-44 Viper Strike: Death From Above. A Griffin competitor.
- Flight International (Sept 8/10) – Raytheon’s Griffin missile makes quiet gains with US military