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US Navy Completes Hellfire Missile Tests on Littoral Combat Ship

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US Navy Completes Hellfire Missile Tests on Littoral Combat Ship

The weapon system is slated to go out on a ship deployment later this year.

US Navy Completes Hellfire Missile Tests on Littoral Combat Ship

The USS Detroit firing an AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile during a live-fire missile exercise in 2017.

Credit: U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy has successfully completed structural testing of the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) that confirms that the weapon system can be installed and safely operated on the littoral combat ship (LCS), USNI News reports.

“The service had previously wrapped up structural testing for the Freedom-variant ships that are homeported in Mayport, [Florida] (…),” according to USNI News. “Testing on the Independence-variant hulls wrapped up about two weeks ago with a successful engagement.”

The LCS class consists of the Independence and Freedom variants.

The SSMM, a 24-shot vertical launch system designed to engage surface targets in close proximity to an LCS with AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles vertically launched in rapid succession, is slated to go on a ship deployment later this year, according to a source.

Last year, the U.S. Navy said that it expected initial operational capability (IOC) and deployment of the SSMM by the end of 2019.

The operational range of the SSMM Hellfire Missile is about 5 miles.

Structural test firings aim to validate the capability of the LCS structure and equipment to withstand the vibration, shock, noise, gases, and other blast byproducts from the firing of a missile.

In the past, the service publicized two structural test firings. The Freedom-class USS Detroit conducted the first-ever live firing test of the SSMM from an LCS in February 2017. At second at-sea launch took place in May 2018 aboard the Freedom-class USS Milwaukee.

The USS Detroit will also be the first LCS to deploy with the SSMM. The LCS is expected to deploy from Florida to South and Central America to conduct counter-drug missions in the near future. The Detroit was commissioned during a ceremony at the Port of Detroit in October 2016.

“Delays in the development of the SSMM led to the initial deployment of a more limited surface warfare mission package aboard the LCS exchanging Hellfire Missiles for rigid hull inflatable boats and boarding teams,” I wrote in 2017. “The package also encompasses two 30- millimeter machine guns, two MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles and an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.”

The U.S. Navy deployed its fourth LCS, the Independence-class USS Montgomery, to Singapore earlier this month following after a 19-month hiatus. Not a single LCS deployed in all of 2018.

“Previous LCSs that have been deployed to Singapore’s Changi and Sembawang naval bases are the Freedom-class USS Freedom, the Freedom-class USS Fort Worth, and the Independence-class USS Coronado,” I wrote earlier this week. “The Coronado deployed to the Indo Pacific region from September 2016 until November 2017 and was the first LCS to be fitted with an over-the-horizon anti-ship capability – the Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS) capable of firing RGM-84D Harpoon Block 1C missiles.”

The Independence-class USS Gabrielle Giffords is expected to deploy to the Indo-Pacific region later this year.