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Fixed wing aircraft: this section deals with the principal anti-armour weapon systems, beginning with guided missiles, designed to suit use by fixed-wing aircraft.

Fixed wing aircraft: this section deals with the principal anti-armour weapon systems, beginning with guided missiles, designed to suit use by fixed-wing aircraft. This is followed by systems primarily designed for helicopters and finally ground-to-ground systems. As will become clear, there is considerable overlap between these categories, due to the need to minimise development spending and the number of different weapons in any nation's inventory. (Complete Guide)

Brimstone

The MBDA Brimstone was developed to meet British requirement SR(A)1238, using as its basis the helicopter-borne, laser-homing Boeing AGM-114A Hellfire. The aim was to suit use on fast jet aircraft, providing a fire-and-forget day/ night all-weather attack capability with a fully autonomous weapon providing multiple kills per pass. The 600 million [pounds sterling] ($ 900 million) development and production contract was awarded in late 1996. Brimstone has a 0.3 kg precursor and a 6.2 kg main charge and is effective against all known and projected armour, including ceramic materials and two-layer ERA (explosive reactive armour).

Emphasis is placed on light weight: the Flight Refuelling reusable launcher with three rounds weighs only 235 kg, and goes on a pylon that would normally carry a single Maverick. The standard load for the Typhoon, Harrier or Tornado is four triple launchers, but without external fuel these aircraft will be able to carry a total of 18 Brimstones. (Whether Brimstone will actually be applied to the Harrier remains to be seen).

Since the Hellfire was designed for a 220-km/hr helicopter, considerable redesign was necessary to suit carriage on fixed-wing combat aircraft. Although the external shape is similar, very little of the original missile remains. The Alenia Marconi Systems active 94 GHz radar (replacing the passive laser seeker of Hellfire) also controls missile altitude and provides terrain avoidance. Making approximately 35 radar `cuts' per vehicle, the Brimstone automatically recognises all tracked fighting vehicles (tanks, armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled guns and air defence units), and will attack provided it can see at least half the target. There is potential for the algorithms to be modified to allow recognition of aircraft and radars on the ground, surface-to-surface missile launchers and small naval vessels.

The Brimstone can be instructed to search in a variety of modes (column, point and area), with pre-set distances to start search, stop and self-destruct (by diving into the ground). A salvo of missiles can be told to fan out and search. If the launch aircraft has Link 16, target coordinates can be inserted into the missile directly from external sources such as the Jstars aircraft. If the Brimstone is fired from above its normal 500 ft cruise altitude, it will dive until it detects the ground. If its radar is jammed after it has detected its target, it will continue to navigate on memory.

The final ground firing of Brimstone was carried out in June 2001, and production acceptance flight trials with four triple releases (following weapon evaluation trials with six single and two triple firings) are due to be completed shortly. Production deliveries for the RAF Tornado GR4 will begin in early 2003. To avoid conflict with the Longbow Hellfire, MBDA has agreed not to market the Brimstone actively for helicopter applications. Looking to the longer term, there have been references to the addition of a laser seeker to minimise the risk of collateral damage, and an alternative blast-fragmentation warhead to suit other types of target.

Maverick

Deliveries of the Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick began over 30 years ago. More than 66,000 have now been produced for the US services and 28 international customers. Some 6000 have been used in combat, with a 93 per cent success rate. As mentioned earlier, the Maverick has a modular design, with TV lock-on for the AGM-65A/B/H, IIR (imaging infrared) for the AGM-65D/F/G, and laser spot-homing for the AGM-65E. A 57-kg shaped charge is fitted to the AGM-65A/B/D/H and a 136-kg penetration/blast warhead arms the AGM-65E/F/G/H/K. Completely new Mavericks are not currently being manufactured, but US Air Force AGM-65Gs are being taken out of storage and re-equipped with CCD (charge-coupled device) seekers, giving three times the acquisition range of the first-generation TV camera, the round then being redesignated AGM-65K. The IIR seekers being removed are fitted to stored AGM-65As for international sales.

The RAF is buying AGM-65G2s with software modified to suit smaller targets, to fulfil a need established in Kosovo for a missile that can attack below low cloud and with low risk of collateral damage. The US Navy is reportedly interested in Raytheon restarting production of the AGM-65E (or modifying AGM-65Fs), possibly using the improved laser seeker from the Enhanced Paveway III LGB. The manufacturer is also considering adding a strap-on fuel tank and turbo-jet engine, to produce an extended range (ER) version with GPS/INS mid-course navigation and either the CCD-TV or IIR seeker for the terminal phase. Whether or not a turbine engine is introduced, it seems likely that Raytheon will add a lock-on after launch (Load facility, using the company's new low-cost weapon data-link to combine man-in-the-loop guidance with an extended maximum range of around 40 km. The Local concept would permit internal carriage on aircraft such as the F-35, and would provide a good indication of likely damage to the target. All existing Mavericks are locked on to the target before launch and used in a fire-and-forget mode.

Strela

In terms of operational employment, the Russian equivalent of the Maverick is probably the supersonic Zvezda-Strela Kh-25M (AS-10) series, exemplified by the laser-homing Kh-25ML, and the more recent TV-guided Kh-25MT and IIR-guided Kh-25MTP. Zvezda-Strela is the core of Russia's new Tactical Missiles Corporation.

Guided Bombs

Although precision-guided munitions, laser-guided bombs for example, are generally discussed in relation to hard targets, i.e. bridges and bunkers, even small bombs such as the 227 kg Mk 82 can disable a main battle tank with a direct hit. In Raytheon's series of LGBs (of which more than 40,000 have been used in combat), the Mk 82 becomes the GBU-12 in Paveway I and II forms. and the GBU-22 in Paveway III form. The Gnu-22 weighs 326 kg and has enlarged fins and a two-stage guidance system for longer standoff range, especially from low-level delivery. The Paveway II/III Enhanced adds a satellite/inertial guidance unit with two GPS antennas.

Other precision-guided bombs include the Rafael Pyramid glide weapon, which combines a Mk 82 warhead with a TV camera feeding imagery back to the launch aircraft over a data-link. The Elbit Opher employs a low-cost IIR-homing terminal guidance kit and is to be used in conjunction with a modern weapon-aiming system on the aircraft. The Elbit Lizard 3 LGB kit is claimed to be superior to the Paveway II.

In its later (2007 delivery) form, the Sagem AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire) will provide precision (metre-class) accuracy for a 250 kg warhead such as the Mk 82. BLU-111 or Cbems. In its most basic form the AASM is a guided bomb, but its modularity will allow the use of a range-extension kit and a rocket motor. The French services have ordered a total of 3000 units, of which half will be the day/night precision version (rather than the earlier all-weather ten-metre class weapon).

Guided Rockets

One of the weapons traditionally used by both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft against armoured fighting vehicles is the high velocity rocket. The most widely used calibre is probably 2.75 inch (70 mm), although Russia has for many years employed the 57 mm S-5. which now appears to have been superseded by the 80 mm S-8. It may be noted that at Berlin's ILA-2002 the Yak-130 and Mi-35M were both exhibited with five-round pods of 122 mm S-13 rockets, one of which appeared to represent the laser-homing S-13L.

For a number of years the US Army has been interested in developing a range of guided missiles that can penetrate armour by virtue of kinetic energy, rather than relying on shaped charges. One result is the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), upgrading the M151 70 mm rocket with a laser guidance unit and aerodynamic controls. Although it will be suitable for use from fixed-wing aircraft and ground vehicles the, APKWS is intended primarily for helicopters. The ORD (operational requirement document) was approved in March 2000, following which the service invited Raytheon and BAE Systems (having private-ventured developments for the Low-Cost Precision Kill technology demonstration phase) to provide trials examples at their own expense by October 2002. The SDD (system development and demonstration) phase is due to begin by January 2003, to allow Lrip (low-rate initial production) to begin in 2005.

The broad aims of the APKWS programme are to achieve an upgrade unit cost of less than $10,000, an accuracy of 1.2 metres and a range of 6.0 km. It will be inexpensive in comparison with the $ 80,000 Hellfire, but on the other hand the APKWS is intended only to destroy lightly armoured targets.
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Publication:Armada International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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