The U.S. Navy’s Persian Gulf Patrol Boats Just Got Laser-Guided Missiles
AGM-176 Griffin missiles give boats a fighting chance
The U.S. Navy is completing a host of sweeping modernization upgrades to its fleet of 14 Patrol Coastal boats by integrating new laser-guided weapons, communications technology, drone sensors and navigation systems to enable the ships to respond to newly-emerging coastal threats.
“This modernization consists of numerous upgrades that support coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, which are important aspects of littoral operations outlined in the Navy’s maritime strategy,” said Colleen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command.
The modernization overhaul is intended to extend the service life of the 1990s-era P.C. boat fleet into the mid-2020s and beyond. The expected service life of a P.C. is roughly 30 years, O’Rourke said.
Of greater importance than simple service life extension is that the upgrades can help the boats keep pace with fast-changing threats in areas such as piracy, mines, small-boat attacks and long-range enemy attacks made possible by drones and modern sensors.
In recent years, the Navy has been arming its fleet of patrol boats with Raytheon-built AGM-176 Griffin B surface-launched, laser-guided missiles able to hit targets at ranges up to four kilometers. The idea is to give the 179-foot long, shallow-water boats the ability to destroy targets at ranges farther than their on-board guns can reach.
The enhancements, coupled with advanced sensors, help the P.C. boats to ward off multiple threats simultaneously and more quickly. The Griffin can provide 360-degree coverage for the ship.
The weapons adjustments are particularly well suited for the Navy’s 5th Fleet, which covers much of the Middle East including flashpoint areas such as the Strait of Hormuz. Tensions with Iranian small boats have at times emerged in some shallower waters near the Iranian coast which offer an important commercial and military passageway from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean.
The coastal patrol ship USS ‘Thunderbolt’ launches a Griffin missile in the Persian Gulf. U.S. Navy photo
The Navy upgrades also include drones for 5th Fleet patrol boats, O’Rourke added. This brings the prospect of networking the drones — handling intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work — with targeting sensors and shipborne weapons, and relaying targeting information across longer distances. The patrol craft’s 7.62-millimeter Mk 52 and 25-millimeter MK 38 guns are also being upgraded.
The Griffin missile employs a dual-mode navigational system using semi-active laser technology and a GPS-aided inertial navigation system, according to Raytheon developers.
The weapons upgrade process begins with the installation of the launcher and weapons control system, a BRITE Star II sensor/laser designator, and Raytheon’s Griffin B missile, Navy officials said.
The 25-foot wide patrol boats have an eight-foot draft and can reach speeds up to 35 knots. With a crew of 28, the ships are equipped to stay at sea for periods up to 10 days. Many P.C.s stationed at the 5th Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain are equipped with enhanced communication suites, improved navigation systems and an improved diesel engine control system.
This article originally appeared at Warrior Maven.