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Countering the low-level air threat: MANPADS; a handy anti-aircraft missile system for the infantryman.

Countering the Low-Level Air Threat: MANPADS

In the face of the growing threat from the air, ground forces need effective means of countering enemy aircraft operating at medium to low altitude. The use of helicopter gunships in particular, and the increasing use of airborne mechanized units (airmobile units) as well as reconnaissance and armed RPVs call for low-cost, flexible systems capable of being used at all operational levels, including the lowest, tactical, level as a complement to the heavier anti-aircraft missile and gun systems. Used for area defence, point defence as well as self-defence, they should be able to deal with a wide spectrum of targets ranging from high-speed, low-flying strike aircraft all the way down to hovering assault helicopters, moreover with a high hit probability.

The experiences gained from the Falklands conflict and the war in Afghanistan, added to the lessons from countless military exercises, have shown that the use of portable guided missile systems, commonly known as MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defence Systems), and their platform-mounted versions, offers an economic means of dealing with the above sort of threats. According to a recently published Defence News Letter of the Swiss Army, which plans to put about 3 000 FIM-92 Stingers into operational service between 1993 and 1996, MANPADS enable anti-aircraft units at the tactical level to perform the following tasks: * the attrition in depth and over a wide area of enemy air units operating at a low level (i.e. area defence) * the much improved defence of the units and facilities of own ground forces (i.e. point defence) * the sealing off of low-level air corridors which could be used by enemy combat planes attempting to evade own radar defences (i.e. plugging the gaps in own air defences).

Area, Point and Self-Defence

In area defence MANPADS are used either to break up, harass and destroy attacking enemy air formations or else to force them up into the higher altitudes where they can be tackled under the best possible conditions by sensor-guided anti-aircraft missiles and/or gun systems.

In point defence, such as the protection of airfields, bridges and radar stations, etc., MANPADS are used essentially to destroy the attacker before he can make use of his weapons.

The originally intended use of MANPADS for self-defence pure and simple, as a form of close-in weapon system or "anti-aircraft grenade-launcher", has, in spite of undoubted successes in the Falklands and in Afghanistan, somewhat lost its importance. In many countries it is now reckoned that a more cost-effective use of MANPADS against the multiplicity of threats from the air is to integrate them in an efficient early warning and gun-control system. In the absence of some effective means of alerting the marksman to the nature of the threat, and because of the still unresolved problem of finding a really reliable IFF system, the hit probability decreases in direct proportion to the increase in the risk of engaging one's own aircraft.

MANPADS in Action

Armed with some 2 000 SA-7 Strelas, the Arab forces in the Yom Kippur war brought down no less than twelve Israeli aircraft. Another eighteen were hit by this heat-seeking missile but were able to regain their home base owing to the poor terminal effect of the missile head.

During the Falklands conflict both the British and Argentinians used the one-man portable Shorts Blowpipe. The British shot down nine Argentinian planes (six Pucaras, two Mirages and an A-4 Skyhawk). For their part the Argentinians claim to have hit two British Gazelle helicopters and possibly one Harrier V/STOL aircraft with this remove-controlled missile. According to official British sources there is said to have been a succession of misses due to battlefield stress, especially in the early stages of the conflict; added to which there was criticism of the weight of the Blowpipe, which had to be physically lugged all the way to the FEBA by the troops. No details are available as to the total number of rounds fired, so that it is not possible to draw any conclusions about its efficacy. The lighter weight FIM-92 Stinger was also used sporadically, accounting, according to the British, for one aircraft.

Over a period of about two years (1986/87) the CIA delivered some 1 000 FIM-92 Stingers to the Afghan mujaheddin. American post-mortems came to the conclusion that with this heat-seeking, fire-and-forget missile the mujaheddin brought down some 400 to 500 Soviet and Afghan combat planes and helicopters. The Blowpipe was also used but owing to the inadequate training of the marksmen it yielded disappointing results. The use of large numbers of MANPADS in Afghanistan obliged the Soviet and loyalist Afghan air forces to change their tactics in answer to the new threat: strikes were launched in attack profile but from medium and high altitudes beyond the Stingers' effective range. Owing to the enormous problems of target acquisition when attacking guerilla bands, this led to considerable loss of accuracy when using air-to-ground weapons. In order to avoid losses from already identified Stinger units both the Russians and the Afghan Army very often gave up making use of their Mi-24 Hind helicopters and close air support Su-25 Frogfoots altogether, resulting in a marked drop in the number of air strike sorties flown against guerilla strongpoints.

Unsolved Problems

Unaided visual target acquisition is generally limited to distances of less than 4 000 metres. This fact alone makes high demands on the state of training and quickness of response of the crew, and furthermore means that the weapon's effective range is not exploited to the full. Electronic and electro-optic sensors for the early identification of target range and bearing considerably improve the MANPADS' operational efficiency. Such sensors provide both advance warning and vectoring. A large number of firms are working on these so-called multispectral sensors, the main accent being on radar and infrared homing heads. Particular weight is attached to the problem of reducing the false target alert ratio.

A special problem in fast reaction times is reliable identification friend-or-foe (IFF), already mentioned earlier on. The IFF systems put into service until now do not guarantee foolproof identification of the enemy. Multispectral systems at present under development by various firms should provide the solution, albeit at a price.

A Few Examples

Among the more noteworthy MANPAD systems are the following. * Bofors RBS 70 Mk. II

Over ten countries, including Sweden, Norway and Australia, are introducing the Bofors-designed close-range RBS 70 surface-to-air guided missile, both in its basic version and its more efficient Mk. II version. Made up of four components this system can be carried by four men and set up by a crew of two. The Mk. II, equipped with an approximately 1 kg warhead containing 4 000 tungsten balls, has an effective range of about 6 km. Its flight time over a distance of 4 km is around 10 seconds. The form of guidance used is of the laser beam-riding type, which permits the frontal attack of approaching airborne targets at maximum operational range. For shipborne and vehicle-borne purposes Bofors has developed a variety of turreted and launcher-based versions of the RBS 70, such as the RBS 70 ARMAD, RBS 70 VLM and RBS 70 SLM. * Bofors RBS 90

On behalf of the Swedish FMV (Defence Procurement Agency) Bofors together with LM Ericsson are working on the final pre-production development of an improved nightime version of the RBS 70, the RBS 90. For reasons of cost the new model will not so much replace the basic version as complement it. A decision is expected shortly about its procurement, which would enable the first units to be combat-ready as from 1993. An RBS 90 firing unit is mounted on two Bv 206 all-terrain vehicles and comprises a HARD (Helicopter and Airplane Radar Detection) target homing and tracking radar, a fire command post and an unmanned twin launcher sited separately from the Bv 206 carrier. Integrated in the launcher are the line-of-sight laser plus video and infrared cameras. The gunner's task simply consists in keeping the sight on the image of the target displayed on a screen generated by the two aforementioned sensors. * General Dynamics FIM-92 Stinger

Used with great success in Afghanistan, the FIM-92 Stinger is a lightweight, fire-and-forget, shoulder-fired guided missile. Developed by General Dynamics' Valley Systems Division, the missile is equipped with a passive homing head which reacts to infrared and ultra-violet radiations and which incidentally is highly resistant to IR countermeasures. The 1.2 kg warheads terminal effect is due entirely to the missile's kinetic energy and the delayed action of its explosive charge. With an effective range of about 5 km, the Stinger consists of a launch tube and integrated sight, the missile proper, a detachable stock and a coolant-cum-power battery. In firing order the system weighs approximately 16 kg. Deliveries of the Stinger in its basic version to the US Army began in 1979. In 1988 the US Army increased the size of its procurement order and signed a three-year contract with General Dynamics for the delivery of 20 514 units of an advanced version called Stinger POST. Fitted with a programmable microprocessor, the Stinger POST's tracking and guidance electronics are adapted to the future threat scenario. Simultaneously, so as to be able to count on a competing supplier as from FY 1990, Raytheon was selected as second-source manufacturer. The Valley Systems Division currently turns out about 650 Stingers a month. An European consortium with Dornier as main contractor will be undertaking the manufacture under license of the Stinger POST. Weapons from this production line will be issued to the Bundeswehr, Greece, Turkey and the Netherlands. Some 12 500 units are to be initially produced, of which 4 400 will be going to the Bundeswehr and 4 800 to the Turkish Army as from 1992.

Meanwhile, Boeing Aerospace Company is producing a system called PMS (Pedestal-Mounted Stinger) as one of the elements of the US Army's five-part FAADS (Forward Area Air Defense System), also based on the FIM-92 Stinger.

The PMS consists of a normally vehicle-mounted, gyrostabilized launcher system comprising two launch tubes for four FIM-92s each, a multi-barreled machine-gun for self-defence and a sighting system with optical day and FLIR night sight. The chassis usually employed for this lightweight anti-aircraft system, which goes by the name of Avenger, is the wheeled 4x4 Hummer truck. For the protection of the rear areas of its light and heavy divisions as well as of the battlefield zone proper the US Army has a requirement over the next ten years for a total of 1 200 PMS systems, of which 273 units have so far been firmly ordered. Another 300 launchers will probably be acquired for the US Marine Corps. Of deliberately simple design the anti-aircraft system can, thanks to its light weight and small dimensions, be airlifted. The strategic C-141 Starlifter cargo plane can transport up to six Avenger vehicles and the C-130 Hercules up to three. A CH-47 Chinook can carry one PMS inboard, while a UH-60A Black Hawk can also carry underslung a launcher without vehicle that can be used as an autonomous firing unit.

The OH-58C Kiowa, OH-58D Aeroscout/AHIP, UH-60A Black Hawk, AH-1 Cobra, AH-64 Apache and the future LHX light attack helicopter of the US Army are all getting an air-to-air version of the FIM-92 Stinger as a self-defence weapon system. Called ATAS (Air-to-Air Stinger) this air combat missile is carried on a twin launcher by the carrier aircraft. All told, the complete installation for two missiles weighs a mere 56 kg. General Dynamics' Valley Division is currently producing an initial batch of 56 ATAS launchers that are due to arm the OH-58Ds. The first of these should have been delivered to the client by the time this article is published. General Dynamics is reckoning on a total order of 3 500 launchers and several tens of thousands of actual missiles. The first countries overseas, in particular West Germany, are said to have already decided to procure this weapon, or to have expressed an interest in it. * Matra Mistral

Based on its experiences with the development of the Magic 2, Matra has now developed the portable Mistral system. An interesting development above all because of its high velocity - it needs only a little more than six seconds to cover 4 km - the Mistral has so far been ordered by, among others, France (2 300 units out of a total requirement estimated at about 10 000), Italy (production under licence of 5 000 units), Belgium (1 000) and Spain (3 000). Consisting of the missile proper carried in its combined transport and launch container with integrated sighting system, the basic version of the Mistral is easily carried by two men. After launch it flies independently towards the target without any help from the firer. Its extremely sensitive infrared homing head is based on multiple-cell technology and is thus highly resistant to enemy electro-optic and electronic countermeasures. The 3 kg warhead is equipped with a laser proximity fuze. During operational trials at the Les Landes proving grounds low-flying CT-20 type target drones were successfully engaged at ranges of more than 5 km and over unspecified shorter distances. Apart from the tripodmounted launcher, Matra, in association with a number of French firms, is producing a series of mounts capable of taking several Mistrals, namely: * Santal.

Designed for mounting on wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles, Santal is particularly suitable for the protection of units on the march towards the battle-zone. It features a launcher for six ready-to-fire Mistrals together with a target acquisition and fire-control radar system. This design permits the engagement of targets round-the-clock and in adverse weather. The French Army is being issued with a version of Santal mounted on the six-wheeler Panhard-designed ERC Sagaie cross-country vehicle and equipped with a Rodeo 2 radar and thermal camera. * Albi

Twin launcher for vehicle-mounted deployment. * Sadral

Remote-controlled, stabilized sextuple launcher for shipborne applications on ships of all sizes. The data required for fire-control are supplied by the carrier ship's corresponding weapon system sensors. Sadral has been ordered by the French Navy and an export customer. Two launchers are undergoing sea trials on Cassard class frigates. * Simbad

Shipborne twin launcher. * ATAM (Air-to-Air Mistral).

Aerial combat version designed for use on helicopters. Trials conducted by McDonnell Douglas on an AH-64 Apache have just been completed. In France ATAM is due to arm the Gazelle helicopter and later on the HAP/HACs of the French Army Air Corps. * Short's Starstreak

A next-generation MANPADS with extremely fast response and short flight times is currently under development by Short Brothers for the British armed forces. Optimized for the attack of frontally approaching targets, the Starstreak has an effective range of 6 km and is held on target by means of a combined SACLOS and laser beam-riding guidance system. With a very high resistance to enemy electro-optic and electronic counter-measures the Starstreak is fitted with a dispenser-type warhead containing three fully guided rocket subminitions. Fitted with a percussion fuze the subminitions are armed after the carrier-rocket's burn-out and guided to target impact with the help of the laser beam. Starstreak attains a top speed of over March 3, making it about three times as fast as any of the previously mentioned systems. In accordance with the British Ministry of Defence's November 1986 specifications Short Brothers are to build three versions: * A shoulder-fired system as a replacement for the Blowpipe and Javelin * A version equipped with a lightweight launcher carrying three ready-to-fire rounds * An eight-tube vehicle-mounted launcher to accompany mechanized units.

The latter, mounted on the Alvis Stormer AFV and fitted with an integrated passive 360 (degrees) heat-seeking homing head, will equip the newly to be formed Close Air Defence Regiment of the British Army of the Rhine.

PHOTO : Devastating in the hands of the Afghan Mujaheddin, the Stinger is said to have brought down over 400 Soviet aircraft.

PHOTO : The Swedish RBS 70 ready to fire. The Cossor-designed Identification Friend or Foe sensor pack is clearly visible suspended at knee height under the unit.

PHOTO : The RBS 90 has just been ordered by the Swedish Army. It can operate in conjunction with the vehicle-mounted Ericsson HARD X-band radar seen on the left.

PHOTO : Part of the US Army's FAADS, the Avenger consists of a gyrostabilized twin quadruple-tube launcher developed by Boeing Aerospace and mounted on a 4x4 Hummer.

PHOTO : The Mistral features a multiple-cell seeker housed in a pyramidal IRdome. It has been ordered in various launcher configurations by five countries to date.

PHOTO : The Santal version of the Mistral is a twin three-tube launcher specifically designed for vehicles. It is seen here on an ESD radar-equipped Panhard Sagaie.

PHOTO : The Thorn-EMI Air Defence Alerting Device will operate in conjunction with the new-generation Shorts Starstreak (inset).
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Title Annotation:Man-Portable Air Defense Systems
Author:Alder, Konrad
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 1989
Previous Article:Looking ahead to the infantry mortar of the 1990s; the trend towards larger calibres and smarter munitions.
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