Guided weapons are used by all three services and although they do have some unique needs the combined forces of politics, defence industrial concerns and a lack of joined up thinking have conspired to complicate matters, where simplicity should be norm.
Anti air; between the RAF, RN and Army the Sidewinder, AMRAAM and ASRAAM, Sea Wolf, Sea Dart, Rapier and Starstreak carry out the task of shooting down aircraft, missiles and UAV’s. Coming into service are Meteor and Aster 15/30. As The Type 42 Destroyer goes out of service the Sea Dart will be replaced by the PAAMS carrying Type 45 Destroyer using Aster (Sea Viper) missiles, Meteor will also replace AMRAAM in RAF service.
The Meteor is approaching deployment and will provide the Typhoon with an advanced beyond visual range anti air missile, when paired with the shorter range ASRAAM it forms a well rounded and formidable capability to maintain air dominance in the face of future threats.
Meteor is late, as seems to be the norm with most advanced systems but significant costs have already been sunk and cancelling at this stage would be counter productive.
There exists an opportunity for further consolidation in the future, the Common Anti Air Modular Missile System (CAMM) is in early concept phase and could replace Sea Wolf and Rapier. Using the airframe and a number of components from the RAF’s ASRAAM this will provide a degree of commonality with its obvious through life support advantages. CAMM takes a common sense approach and its development should be continued to be supported to replace Sea Wolf and Rapier in the 2015-2020 time frame. CAMM might also inform improvements to ASRAAM.
It could be argued that the need for ground based air defence has been diminished due to changing threats but in line with our proposals for maintaining a small core of high end capability, CAMM is still a viable Rapier replacement. The Royal Artillery operate a single Rapier Regiment (16 Regt RA) and 2 Starstreak High Velocity Missile Regiments (12 and 47 Regiments RA), consolidating these into a single Air Defence Regiment equipped with both Rapier and Starstreak maintains an organic air defence capability albeit at a reduced scale. In the medium term the Rapier will be replaced with a wheeled version of CAMM.
In the maritime environment the proliferation of sea skimming anti ship missiles means that anti air is as important as ever and CAMM will offer a vital capability as Sea Wolf goes out of service. It is hoped that CAMM can be ‘quad packed’ in the Sylver vertical launch cells that equip the Type 45 Destroyer and future naval vessels; this will provide greater flexibility and cost reduction opportunities.
A self contained containerised launch facility could be developed to enable rapid and flexible deployment on ships or in ground locations, supporting an escalating response to rapidly changing events or threat environments. Basing the container on a standard ISO container would have obvious transport and handling advantages.
The RAF have an effective range of free fall guided bombs, especially the new Paveway IV’s and the new dual mode seeker version of Brimstone which is proving its worth in Afghanistan. Existing plans for a 3 tier capability of Paveway IV, Enhanced Paveway III and Brimstone should be continued.
The Storm Shadow long range missile has proven its worth and whilst expensive it is very effective, as are the ALARM anti radar missile and Harpoon Anti Shipping missile.
These weapons should be integrated onto the Typhoon and Nimrod as applicable.
The Royal Navy also use the Harpoon anti shipping missile in both a surface and sub surface launch capacity, the submarine launched Tomahawk cruise missile also gives the UK an extremely powerful and responsive land attack capability.
CAMM also has a good export potential, this forming a key part of any decision making process.
Not many changes to existing plans at this point except perhaps ensuring that all weapons are integrated on current aircraft sooner rather than later and having a flexible means of deploying CAMM in response to changing threats.
In 2008 the MoD announced the formation of Team Complex Weapons, a partnering arrangement with the MoD, QinetiQ, MBDA (UK), Thales (UK) and Roxel to provide a streamlined programme for the development of a family of missiles. The initial programmes are…
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition (MBDA-led, with Team LM).
Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) for Royal Navy helicopters (MBDA) as a lead in to a 100Kg weapon family to replace the combat proven Sea Skua.
50Kg weapon family to meet the Selected Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) requirements (MBDA)
Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) for Royal Navy helicopters (Thales UK) as a lead in a light weapon family.
Future Local Area Air Defence System – Maritime for the T23 Frigate and the Future Surface Combatant (MBDA) incorporating the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile.
An upgrade programme for Storm Shadow (MBDA) currently used on the Tornado GR4.
These programmes have proceeded in a low key but effective manner, the partnering agreement and enabling contracts may prove to be a cost effective approach to development and procurement of weapon systems.
In previous posts we have discussed the defence industrial strategy and asked if we really need self sufficiency in every complex weapon system, can some of our needs be met with off the shelf solutions. Whilst one should be sympathetic to the objectives of DIS it has sometimes resulted in poor value for money.
There are some sensible developments in Team Complex Weapons but in some categories there either exist credible off the shelf solutions that may provide greater cost effectiveness or the requirement itself may be postponed.
The Sea Skua replacement is in response to an obvious need and has already garnered support from France, Future Local Area Defence is discussed above and the upgrade programme for Storm Shadow is also a logical and sensible development but costs have to be contained.
SPEAR is a logical development of Brimstone which as been shown in trials to be capable in the destruction of enemy air defences (DEAD) and against rapidly maneuvering small craft but could this be postponed, possibly yes.
The Royal Navy has a requirement, as embodied in FASGW(L) for a helicopter launched, lightweight and maneuverable missile for attacking small and fast surface craft out of range of their heavy machine guns but not needing something as large and expensive as a Sea Skua or its replacement. Mockups have also shown the missile arming small UAV’s and is based on the Starstreak missile body. If costs can be contained this is a sensible development but alternatives should also be considered.
In the anti armour and land attack role the Army has a wide variety of systems, at the high end is the ‘70km sniper’ or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), followed by the Apache Attack Helicopter fired Hellfire, the man portable Javelin and the Next Generation Light Anti Armour Weapon (NLAW). Of course, fast air delivered weapons such as guided bombs and Brimstone also make up this matrix (for convenience, rockets, mortars, artillery and cannons are excluded)
The GMLRS is proving in Afghanistan to be highly accurate where it is reportedly being used at a very high rate, a measure of its effectiveness. The Hellfire missile launched from the Apache is also a well proven weapon system and the Javelin is being used at such a high rate that additional stocks have had to be purchased.
Into this mix and occupying the space between the GMLRS and Javelin will be the Fire Shadow loitering munition, providing ground forces with precision attack capabilities without having to resort to CAS or the GMLRS.
Although the Fire Shadow has not been initially suggested for maritime role it would provide the RN with the ability for precision ground attack.
Being able to attack targets with high precision, without direct line of sight and with a low yield warhead would be an effective means of reducing the collateral damage that unfortunately sometimes accompanies the larger weapon systems like Brimstone, Hellfire, GMLRS or Close Air Support.
Are there any alternatives?
The US Netfires is similar in concept but with a range of 25km, day or night operation, a range of warheads and the ability to use a fibre optic cable to relay information back to the launch operator for mid course correction the Spike NLOS is available off the shelf. Perhaps there is no urgent operational need but as part of a medium term strategy it could provide a valuable tri service capability, fitting perfectly in between GMLRS and the Javelin.
Politics unfortunately stepped in to stop the Army selecting the Israeli Rafael Spike missile when it was in competition with Javelin, a longer ranged version is also a Hellfire alternative and the short range version is an NLAW alternative. With a degree of vision, a common multi purpose missile could have carried out the roles currently carried out by a wide range of systems.
The Spike system is unique in that its many versions have a very high commonality, dramatically reducing through life support costs, these versions cover the very short range to the very long range.
If Turkey can invest in Spike then so should we, in fact it can be purchased from an EU company, Eurospike GmbH, was formed by Rafael with Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (formerly STN Atlas Elektronik) and Diehl Munitionssysteme (DMS).
The base proposal is to introduce the Spike NLOS in lieu of developing the Fire Shadow. It could be deployed on a simple wheeled vehicle chassis, integrated onto Lynx/Merlin/Apache or in a similar concept to CAMM, fitted into a standard ISO container for flexible transportation and deployment in ground and maritime environments. For example, in Afghanistan, a containerised version could simply be dropped into a FOB to provide local defence and patrol support, complimenting GMLRS, CAS or direct fire weapons. In this application the ability to carry out mid course correction by virtue of its fibre optic command link would be invaluable in a restrictive Rules of Engagement environment.
Once a member of the Spike family has been introduced into service it opens up the possibility of wider deployment in the long term.
The Royal Navy requirement for a lightweight missile (in naval terminology) to counter small craft could possibly be fulfilled by the Spike ER if it could target high speed surface craft and this could be an alternative to the FASGW(L) development. The RAF’s Brimstone (at least in the dual seeker version) may also be replaced with the Spike. Over the medium to long term Hellfire might be replaced with Spike ER, Javelin with Spike MR and NLAW with Spike SR. Whilst these are not certainties they are possibilities.
This may again seem wasteful, significant sums have already been invested in these in service systems but investing in a common multi-purpose family of weapons that can be used by more than one service with its attendant reduction in support issues, training overheads and other through life support costs might deliver significant savings in the long term that would more than mitigate the increase in short term costs.
Using £70k Javelins or £100k Brimstones to attack small groups of individuals as is the norm in Afghanistan, whilst providing the desired effect, is a very expensive way of doing business. Both the Javelin and Brimstone are hugely sophisticated and versatile weapon systems originally designed for high value targets, a single insurgent in his flip flops some might say is not an equal exchange. Because they are designed to attack moving targets in very difficult conditions with multiple attack profiles they are simply over engineered for the largely static or semi static soft targets they are currently being used against.
Recognising this imbalance, a number of suppliers have been investigating low cost guidance kits for the various types of folding fin free flight rockets in service. In the RAF and Army Air Corps the rocket of choice is the CRV-7, a seemingly old fashioned and unglamorous weapon that nevertheless is massively effective, very low cost and frequently used.
The manufacturers of the CRV-7 ( Bristol (Magellan) Aerospace of Canada) have developed a low cost precision version utilising a simple laser homing seeker head from Kongsberg, additional seeker heads include GPS and Anti Radiation.
The CRV7 no doubt is the best of breed and with the addition of a low cost semi active laser homing warhead it would provide a useful extra capability for limited vehicular and airborne (helicopter and UAV) launch, with a range of between 1 and 12km.
The main driver for the introduction of the CRV7-PG is cost, taking such a simple system without complex development could be treated almost as a UOR.
- Continue with Meteor development and deployment
- Continue with development of CAMM for Sea Wolf and Rapier replacement
- Reduce number of Air Defence Regiments
- Develop self contained containerised launch facilities for CAMM
- Continue development plans for Paveway IV, Enhanced Paveway III and Brimstone
- Continue development plans for FASGW(L) and Storm Shadow
- Integrate Paveway IV, EPIII, Brimstone, ALARM, Storm Shadow and Harpoon onto Typhoon
- Integrate Storm Shadow and Harpoon on Nimrod
- Continue with Team Complex Weapons approach
- Cancel Fire Shadow LM and postpone 50kg missile (SPEAR)
- Introduce Spike NLOS
- In the medium to long term investigate replacing Hellfire, Javelin and NLAW with other Spike variants
- Consider Spike as a replacement for the dual seeker Brimstone variant
- Purchase CRV7-PG as a low cost, low yield precision weapon