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A Chat with Missile Industry Leaders.

With the Western and Eastern defence communities now beginning to settle into what is termed a "new world order", Armada International interviewed the senior officers from a few of the major missile companies West to East in an attempt to sense which course missile developments are bound to toke in the next decade and beyond. All were asked the same questions, although Armada's Editor-in-Chief did put in a few more questions during these conversations (in italics) where appropriate. The answers had to be shortened for reasons of space but are otherwise almost verbatim.

Interview Questions

* 1. Which of the tactical ground-to-ground, air-to-air, air-to-ground and ground-to-air segments of the missile industry is, in your opinion, likely to experience the highest growth rate in the next decade and beyond?

* 2. As a corollary to the previous question, and looking at the world map, where do you see the main differences in procurement requirements?

* 3. What do you perceive as being the main thrusts of development in terms of technological breakthroughs in the same time frame for that particular sector?

* 4. Missiles have seen dramatic capability improvements in the past decade. What do you specifically relate them to? because they offer immense computing power -- and they're very cheap".
Ed Cobleigh
Vice President, International
Business Development
Raytheon Missile Systems Company

The growth area we're looking at is the one that was identified during the Kosovo and Bosnia campaigns -- and that is air-delivered precision guided ordnance. That seemed to be the weapon of choice in Kosovo, Bosnia and in the no-fly zones in Iraq. For all the tactical reasons they were widely trumpeted but it's also the area with which most of our allies and the security partners of the United States are deficient in. They were ending up buying weapons from us on an emergency basis. I think that the air-to-air world is pretty well covered with Amraam, AIM-9X and other air-launched weapons. Ground-to-ground tactical missiles like anti-tank missiles and MLRS are fairly known commodities, so the precision guided air-to-ground is where the deficiency is and I think that's where the growth is".

(EHB: What sort of air-to-ground weapon in particular, cruise, or laser-guided bomb?)

"You've put your finger on the bifurcated market. There is a market for the cruise missiles types, [like] the Tomahawk, Storm Shadow, Apache, Jsow, that sort of thing, which are kind of silver bullet approaches; high-value, highly-defended, very sensitive targets are areas where you don't want to risk an aircrew, so a precision guided cruise type missile is the way to go. But obviously they are very expensive in terms of cost-per-kill and so the other half of the market is going to be short-range precision guided. The question there is the guidance modes that are going to be used. INS-GPS is going to be incorporated across the board in all sorts of these weapons -- there is no doubt about that -- the real debate is what sort of precision do you add onto the INS-GPS? Is it a terminal seeker that identifies targets? Is it a laser guidance kit that allows the aircrews to precision-designate targets? I think that's where the development and the technical efforts will be going".

(EHB: What will determine this?)

"Good question! Here is the shape of the debate. There is a requirement for all weather. Of course INS-GPS is all weather, but as we've seen in the tragic bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade [and] in other things like that, if INS-GPS is only what a weapon has, you run the risk of miss-aligning target coordinates in all weather operations and run the risk of weapons not impacting exactly where you want them and therefore suffering collateral damage. Laser designation solves that problem very well because the aircrew has real-time control of the impact point right up to the moment of impact, and therefore if a school bus crosses the bridge you're bombing, you just dump the bomb in the river at the last minute. But of course that has weather and defensive limitations. So there is probably a market or a requirement for both types of weapon: one that has a man-in-the-loop precision guidance an one for an all weather capability where you're less concerned about collateral damage. [...] The growth is going to be the next generation beyond those two fairly simple minded guidance principles [INS-GPS and laser] with positive target ID and all-weather capability and combining the two if at all possible [...] and adding a terminal seeker".

(EHB: What type?)

"Several types are possible, and are being flown and tested. Imaging infrared offers the capability of armoured target recognition algorithms, ladar is another possibility as it offers you a little more precision in target identification, millimetre-wave is certainly going to be looked at because of its all-weather and night-time capability; so I think the jury is still out on which of those terminal guidance techniques offer the most utility and the lowest cost".

(EHB: When you look at cruise missile performance, do you see guided bombs being as useful in future as they have been in the past ten years?)

"Yes, absolutely. It's very difficult to conceive an autonomous cruise missile that is sold at less than half a million dollars. Our current tactical Tomahawk [costs] in that neighbourhood. Should we get the cost of Tomahawk lower? Perhaps a little but not much and if you look at the cost of things like the Storm Shadow, Apache, Taurus, they are even higher. So I think that there is a sort of irreducible minimum of around half a million dollars that you're not going to be able to do much with, whereas the shorter range precision guided air-to-ground ordnance, like enhanced Paveway, INS-GPS guided weapons, J-Sow and those sort of things are in the tens of thousands to hundred thousand dollar range, and therefore you can afford to employ more of them. You're not going to see the sky darkened with Tomahawks."

* 2 -- "Europe IS the requirement for precision guidance. That was very well documented in discussions, [...] white papers after the Kosovo campaigns. The conversation we just had on precision guided weapons is primarily a European-Nato burning need. In the MiddleEast the situation is entirely different in that most of the countries there are more defensively minded and they see an air-to-air threat that is yet unaddressed; Though there will be some precision guided weaponry [requirement] there as well but, as I said, the crying need in the Middle East is air-to-air stuff. There will be some air-to-ground [requirements] as well, obviously. Asia Pacific? That will be even stronger on air defence requirements because if you look at the geopolitical situation, there are not too many countries that are contemplating [...] to conduct precision strikes against their neighbour. They are more concerned in defending their own territories. So again, that will be an air-to-air market, with a lot of naval presence. [...] In Latin America they are turning their attention to two areas: one is modernisation of what is some fairly obsolete equipment that usually manifests itself in the form of fighter acquisition, [the other] is a growing interest in conducting coalition operations and international operations in certain Latin American countries. Argentina and Chile are two examples of countries that desire to participate in peace-keeping, in Nato operations and interoperability with Western powers. Those folks want to play with the big boys".

* 3 -- "We already talked about INSGPS inclusion in everything and precision guidance addition. I think that there are two thrusts that you're going to see: one is a reduction in cost in precision weaponry, [...] even in the cruise missile arena -- we've cut the price of the Tomahawk almost in half with the tactical Tomahawk. The other technological breakthrough is going to be tighter sensor-to-shooter integration, where you reduce the time line between identifying a target from satellites, from reconnaissance aircraft, from Awacs, from J-Stars etc and getting those target co-ordinates, target location, target signature through the strike aircraft into the weapon and on the ground in a minimum of time".

* 4 -- "We touched on this earlier: the rapid miniaturisation, ruggedisation and increase in computing power [...] and the availability of commercial off-the-shelf processors is really at the heart of this. It used to be that the tactical missile arena was at the leading edge of technology and that technology was then adapted to civilian use, but in the past decade the exact reverse has happened [to the extent] that commercial processing chips are now being incorporated into the tactical missiles because they offer immense computing power -- and they're very cheap".
Mike Marks
VP General Manager, Boeing
Fighter Bomber & Weapon

We're principally air-to-ground, so we don't play in all the markets, we don't have a player in air-to-air and don't have a player, essentially, in ground-to-air. But as we look at the market, we see that the future in terms of overall revenues, and not necessarily in terms of number of systems, probably rests with the ground-to-air market -- and I think specifically at national missile defence. When you get outside of the US, it's [about] defence of ground forces or defence of territories, so the development of ground-to-air, I think, offers the greatest potential. Having said that we're not a player in that market, we do have a seeker programme that we perform for our Pac-3, which could be conceivably part of our national missile defence programme once that gets defined".

(EHB: do you refer to the US only?)

"I extend that to all the countries around the world".

(EHB: but what type more specifically, shorad, mid-range, anti ballistic?)

"I think across the whole range of products: ballistic missile defence which the US tends to emphasise just because of our geographic position, and I would say that when you get outside the Unites States and you start looking at other countries, you're looking basically at air defence systems. If you look at some that have been developed by the Russians, they have done an outstanding job in developing defensive systems against aircraft".

(EHB: now, if we look at units rather than revenue?)

"Well, in that case I'd say that we tend to be a player there because I think the precision air-to-ground munitions are the weapons of the future; [it was] realised in Kosovo and also in Desert Storm that precision weapons are a significant factor in the success of operations in terms of reducing collateral damage and also in providing fewer sorties per target. Right now we are under contract, for example, in the Jdam programme for some 28000 weapons already, and we have expectations for that to go up in the 80 and 90 thousands in terms of kits that will be produced for precision munitions. And when you look at some of the other suppliers you can see that, just in the UK, there is the requirement 1248 and [...] and that most other nations realise the advantages precision munitions offer. In terms of sheer quantities, that is the direction industry will take".

* 2 -- " It's pretty straightforward: I think the US domestic market is the largest market in the world. [...] most European suppliers recognise that if you look at the growth of BAE Systems in the United States, their acquisition of companies points towards their desire to play a bigger role in the US market. Beyond that you move into the European market, and then there's a requirement spread out throughout the world but as long as national defence and protection of individual interests are important, these systems will be very attractive to countries throughout the world".

* 3 -- "I think that the advantages that are offered by precision weapons are against fixed targets. If you know the geographical location and the advances that have been made with coupled inertial measurement systems and GPS and the ability to package those into very small sizes, it made precision weapons a reality today and it will continue to make them interesting for the military forces in the time to come. I think what is lacking right now is the ability to go after mobile targets. And of course, when you start complicating that with the factors of weather [...] and artificial cover, the ability to develop sensors in the area of millimetre wave which is able to penetrate weather and also perhaps provide some discrimination in foliage and other forms of concealment [is needed]. I think that the development of sensors and combination of inertial and GPS guidance will be the direction that the technology will take in future weapons".

(EHB: what about unmanned aircraft?)

"Well, that's the direction we'll be going [...] and any company that isn't pointed in that direction is going to miss out on an opportunity in the future. I think that you are going to see the conceptual development of a lot of these systems come in the next ten years and then probably the deployment and operational use in twenty years. In terms of reconnaissance you already see it [happen] today in very small scale."

* 4 -- "Clearly the miniaturisation of electronics that enabled us to package so much capability at such a low cost into these particular weapons [...] and the coupling of inertial measurement systems with GPS guidance is a second area that gave you the accuracy that you desire out of these munitions -- both cruise missiles and other air-to-ground types of munition".
Jean-Paul Genest
Technical Director

In the ten years to come, we believe that the most significant developments will take place in the surface-to-air missiles category, starting from the very short range up to the medium and long range types. In the very short range like the Mistral, a replacement will take place, even though this will happen over a longer time span than we thought -- we've been hearing about the Shorad and V-Shorad for years without really seeing this leading [anywhere] -- but there should be an opening for those perhaps not in ten, but certainly fifteen years from now. The big question is: will the three categories [very short, short and medium range] remain or will they be reduced to two? Then turning to medium range and, as far as we are concerned, this is the Aster and all its variants; this [category] is bound to take more and more importance. We are in the final development stages and about to enter the production phase, and we also believe that the medium range anti-ballistic missiles [based on the Aster] activities will be growing. We have proposals on hand in this field.

The other major segment is air-to-ground, the Scalp and Storm Shadow, but we believe that further developments will take place in this range, and that intermediate developments will take place between the guided bomb and cruise missiles like the Scalp Naval, in other words, there is room for medium range and low-cost missiles. So this represents the second area of growth. By the way, we also include land attack in this segment -- in other words derivatives that are launched from ships or from the ground".

(EHB: Could you please expand on the intermediate range? Do you mean bomb kits or weapons that are cheaper than cruise missiles but yet, that are sufficiently accurate?)

"Yes, that's right. Kits have limited capabilities; accuracy is satisfactory but range is limited, although their advantage is that they are low-cost and can be used in large numbers. So there is room here for something between these and the cruise missiles".

(EHB: And all-weather accuracy?)

"You know, clouds don't always reach the ground and therefore even infrared seekers can work under those conditions. Nevertheless, millimetric wave sensors are bound to take their share here, though in my opinion won't replace [infrared]. I believe that infrared will still provide higher accuracy and best cost-to-performance ratio.

As for air-to-air, predictions are more difficult to make, because these missiles and their development are narrowly tied to the carrier. The Meteor is already a major development [for us], but I do not see any significant development in the short-range category. Certainly, there is the on-going competition between the AIM-X, the Asraam, the Iris-T and other missiles of this kind, but these are not the missiles that will yield large turnovers".

* 2 -- "We firmly believe that the ground-to-air segment will grow in Europe, maybe essentially in the antiballistic segment, but so will the short-range and land attack. We rather see growth [potential] in air-to-ground around the United States, with extended capabilities on the Jdam or the Paveway and [further] development on the Jassm, which is bound to draw yet other developments of this type in its slipstream. Of course, I don't even mention their antimissile activities that are bound to be huge -- but this is a very specific domain.

As for exports, it is really difficult to answer your question; again this involves surface-to-air, but also air-to-air to a lesser extent. I haven't mentioned anti-radiation because the picture is still fuzzy there, although we feel that a need is developing in Europe, but this will be beyond the decade we are talking about".

* 3 -- "Infrared will certainly continue to be refined, so will millimetric, but will not replace them (infrared seekers). [...] Mission preparation is still very complex; a very detailed description of the target is needed, which means taking photographs [beforehand]. So what we need -- and we're working on that -- is that when the target is a bridge, the missile should be able to understand and recognise a bridge. This would simplify the mission preparation and also allow to attack opportunity targets".

(EHB: Including mobile targets?)

"Yes, absolutely. If some information is available on the environment, the weapon would be able to identify a tank. [...] We will very soon be able to integrate an inertial system into an electronic board [to the extent that] we won't be able to distinguish the electronic component that provides speed information from the one that provides acceleration data".

* 4 -- "Everything orbited around electronics. It is really on-board computing capacities as well as silicon-based technologies that cleared the way to major developments. There was also [as a consequence] the capability to work on algorithms and therefore complex software, and in the [the field of] development processes and validation of complex algorithms we now have fantastic simulation and emulation means that we didn't have only five years ago. This was certainly the most fundamental factor in the past tens year, to which one must add progress achieved with GPS".
Veniamin P. Efremov
General Designer Academician
Antey Industrial Concern

I think that the highest growth rate will involve the ground-to-ground and ground-to-air categories. Progress in aviation weapons will mainly depend on the rate of progress [achieved] in target observation means. Ground-to-ground missiles will be improved to enhance the precision of non-nuclear warhead delivery; other improvements will involve the mobility of [both their] launching vehicles [...] and system effectiveness to counter anti-missile defences. In this connection, the development of technology will make it possible to create the reconnaissance/striking complexes [systems] able to destroy the detected targets in real time.

The very important factor [behind the need to] develop this class of missile is the fast growing list of countries introducing this type of missile into their armed forces. These might be missiles of own design and manufacture or acquired abroad, forasmuch as their attraction lies in low cost compared with aviation- or sea vehicle-carried weapons.

Air defence systems will also be improved, above all in terms of firing capability, with the use of multi-channel radar, high-velocity Sams together with decreasing system reaction time. The extremely important feature for weapon systems used in modern warfare conditions is its survivability. It is beyond doubt that a high-mobility Sam system will have a life-span many times longer than its idling counterpart. A very important avenue of evolution should also be considered: the creation of long-range Sam systems aimed at destroying jammers and airborne command posts at ranges that will deny such systems the fulfilment of their mission.

In terms of non-strategic anti-missile defence, the promising line of development is the creation of integrated Sam systems that would include mutually complementing anti-missile complexes and anti-aircraft systems of different engagement ranges".

* 2 -- "Potential customers for missile systems are, in the first place, those countries that are confronted with a threat to their security. The tension in the Near East does not show signs of ebbing, the same can be said of certain Asian regions (India-Pakistan, tensions around the Spratly Islands, etc). The availability of many modern technologies and reasonably low cost weapons in some cases can lead to a proliferation of missile systems in such regions as Africa, South America and some countries in South-East Asia.

It is obvious that the nature of the threat will determine the acquisition requirements. Thus, if a potential adversary possesses ground-to-ground missiles, anti-missile means are required for their neutralization. Otherwise, if an adversary has a fleet of older generation aircraft and helicopters, Manpads would suffice as a basis for air defence. In any case the principal restricting factor is a correlation between weapon cost and budget availability".

* 3 -- "I think that the basis for progress in missile technology will be the same as for the majority of present day technologies: developments in microelectronics, progress in the field of informatics, development and practical introduction of artificial intelligence".

* 4 -- "It is rather difficult to single out the most significant factor. It seems to me that if we consider technological factors I mentioned earlier, they have been of roughly the same importance. On the other hand the missile technologies have enjoyed a particular attention in recent time due to the fact that traditional weapons, cannon artillery for example, have been lagging behind in terms of capability compared with missiles, whereas principally new weapons, laser for example, have not reached the stage of practical deployment".

A Treat

The word is not too strong, as indeed it was a real pleasure for the author not only to listen to what these gentlemen had to say, but also the way they said it: they never bragged about their own products, but took the necessary step back to provide a broader view of the missile world picture. A fine example of this impartiality came from Boeing's Mike Marks who admitted that he saw major growth in an area his company was not involved with, but yet expanded on the subject -- so hats off. For practical reasons, this Q&A exercise with Mr. Veniamin P. Efremov had to be carried out in writing. A sad note, however, sounded from the United States where, regretfully, Lockheed Martin declined to take part into what resulted, in the end, in a fine forum.
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Author:Biass, Eric H.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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