Tag Archives: USS Firebolt (PC 10)

Griffin it up

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 05, 2021) The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) fires a Griffin missile during a test and proficiency fire in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 5, 2021. Firebolt, assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 55, is supporting maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aleksander Fomin) 211105-A-PX137-0082

Technically the BGM-176B Griffin B, or the Sea Griffin, is the navalized ground-launched version of Raytheon’s low-cost (compared to more advanced missiles) 34-pound bunker/tank buster that was lighter than the Hellfire used by the Army was originally designed for use from helicopters, UAVs and Marine KC-130s/USAF MC-130s.

Originally pitched as an add-on for the LCS to enable it to zap especially rowdy pirates and asymmetric fast boat threats, the 13-pound warhead would only really be effective against a larger ship in the case of bridge shots and needs an operator with a semi-active laser to paint a target. With that, the Navy opted for a modified Longbow Hellfire– which can use the ship’s radar and be used against multiple targets at once– for the LCS, along with the Naval Strike Missile for heavy work.

However, adopted as the MK-60 Patrol Coastal Griffin Missile System (GMS), the chunky Griffin B has been getting it done on the 170-foot Cyclones, in twin four-cell topside mounts, since 2013. This gives each of these short boys eight decently powerful close-in (3-5nm) missiles, coupled with the ability to use the ship’s mast-mounted Bright Star EO/IR camera for targeting, which gives them a solid stand-off capability against Iranian Boghammars and similar threats. 

Personally, I’d like to see it installed on the Coast Guard’s very similar 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, at least for the six of the class intended to operate forward deployed with PATFORSWA in the Persian Gulf under CENTCOM. They could also likely be of use on the USCG’s increasingly WestPac units of the same class

Video of Firebolt’s recent test:

 

Nipping at the heels

Apparently taking the sidelining of the Teddy Roosevelt carrier battlegroup in Guam and the Ronald Reagan group in Japan during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the blood trail of a wounded beast, Iran, China, and Russia are sniffing around and flexing a bit where the U.S. is forward-deployed.

WestPac

China’s six-ship Liaoning carrier group (Liaoning along with two type 052D guided-missile destroyers – the Xining and Guiyang – two type 054A guided-missile frigates – the Zaozhuang and Rizhao – and a type 901 combat support ship, the Hulunhu) passed through the tense Miyako Strait, between Okinawa and Taiwan, over the weekend, under the eyes of various JMSDF, U.S. and ROC assets.

Chinese carrier ‘Liaoning with escorts. Photos via Chinese Internet

Further, as reported by the South China Morning Post: “On Thursday [9 Apr], an H-6 bomber, J-11 fighter and KJ-500 reconnaissance plane from the PLA Air Force flew over southwestern Taiwan and on to the western Pacific where they followed a US RC-135U electronic reconnaissance aircraft.”

Of note, the ROC Army has sent some of their aging but still very effective M60A3 tanks out into public in recent days in what was announced a pre-planned exercise. Still, when you see an MBT being camouflaged in the vacant lot down the block, that’s a little different.

Photo via Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Note the old KMT cog emblem. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Very discrete. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Meanwhile, in the Arabian Gulf

A series of 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels on Wednesday (15 April 15) buzzed the expeditionary platform USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), and her escorts, the destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Sirocco (PC 6), and two 110-foot Island-class Coast Guard cutters, USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), while the U.S. vessels were conducting operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

The below footage seems to be from the running bridge of one of the Coast Guard 110s, likely Maui from reports, and you can see what the Navy terms a Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC), armed with a heavy machine gun with a deck guy’s hands on the spades.

The IRGCN fields hundreds of such 30- to 50-foot fast boats, armed with a variety of rockets, machine guns, and small mines, and have been the organization’s bread and butter since the early 1980s.

For reference

As noted by the 5th Fleet:

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened the distance between them.

ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the north Arabian Gulf. U.S. forces are conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Potomu chto ya byl perevernut

Not to feel left out, 6th Fleet reports (emphasis mine) that a Syrian-based Russian Flanker-E came out over the Med to buzz a P-8:

On April 15, 2020, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35. The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction. The duration of the intercept was approximately 42 minutes.

While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and the potential for midair collisions.

The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.

Getting some live-fire Griffin time in

Five TF55-based Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships —USS Tempest (PC 2), USS Squall (PC 7), USS Chinook (PC 9), USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Thunderbolt (PC 12)— recently had the chance to sling Griffin SSMs at moving target sleds to demonstrate their ability to hit surface targets, like small boats.

170718-N-VG873-0159 ARABIAN GULF (July 18, 2017) A griffin missile is launched from the coastal patrol ship USS Chinook (PC 9) during a test and proficiency fire. USS Chinook is one of 10 coastal patrol ships assigned to Coastal Patrol Squadron (PCRON) 1, which is forward deployed in Manama, Bahrain, in support of maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin L. Simmons/Released)

The tests came late last month, around the time of increased Iranian challenges in international waters from Revolutionary Guard small craft in the PG.

The MK 60 Griffin Missile System uses a four-cell box launcher about the size of a Barcalounger, with one each mounted port and starboard on the 179-foot PC, giving them 8 modified Hellfire missiles at hand to regulate small craft–and I would bet low/slow-flying aircraft as well.

The system began fielding in 2015 and uses a Battle Management System (BMS) based on a ruggedized “Toughbook” laptop is operated from the bridge drawing from target imagery from the ship’s mast-mounted Bright Star EO/IR camera. Range is listed at 3nm, but is likely a good bit longer.

While the 13-pound warhead isn’t likely to sink a frigate, it and the kinetic energy of the missile itself is probably good enough to scratch anything less than 100-footer while a salvo of four (as they can be ripple fired to the same illuminated target) could ruin the day of a corvette-sized warship if needed. Good news is they can’t be chaffed or EW’d away due to the IR nature of their warhead seeker. Bad news is the target has to be lit up the whole time by Bright Star which limits a shoot-and-scoot engagement.