Although there has been much attention given to the the guided 70mm rockets like CRV7-PG and APWKS II the LMM has quietly progressed, contract award was in April last year, is due for qualification testing this year, is expected to start production in 2013 and enter service with the Royal Navy from 2015.
As part of the Team Complex Weapons construct the LMM was ‘reversed’ into an existing production and long term support contract, thought to be for Starstreak. Because the threat that Starstreak is designed to counter is considered lower than when it was placed in production this seems like a sensible and flexible approach. Thales have a support contract with the MoD for Starstreak out to 2020 but it is not known if the commercial arrangements have also been modified to account for fewer of those missiles and the introduction of LMM, one would imagine its all in the small print.
Fulfilling the Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) requirement it will be one of the primary weapons of the maritime variant of the Wildcat helicopter.
Aboard the Wildcat it has been shown in a couple of configurations, 5 and 7 round launchers.
The initial production variant (that will be obtained in a quantity of 1,000) is the laser beam riding version.
The LMM is derived from the innovative Starstreak High Velocity Missile
Designed to attack small targets like inflatables, fast attack craft and surfaced submarines for example, what marks the LMM as something rather special is its relatively low cost, the motor for example was value engineered by Roxel to a specific cost and the guidance and much of the control system has been taken from the Starstreak.
The second distinguishing feature is its small warhead when compared to the larger Hellfire or Brimstone missile. This precise and low collateral damage warhead will allow it to be used against a much wider variety of targets. The warhead is a blast/fragmentation type weighing 3kg; compare this with 9kg on a Hellfire and 8.4kg on a Javelin.
The missile weighs 13kg and range is given as 8km with only a small minimal range, 400m, unlike the precision guided 70mm rockets that need a considerable distance. The fuse uses a laser proximity system and the missile itself is only 76mm in diameter with a length of 1.3m. The use of a laser proximity fuse is designed to allow the missile to be used against non-metallic targets, inflatable boats being the obvious example.
Thales have stated that a semi active laser seeker and anti-armour warhead would be relatively easy to integrate, the SAL seeker being recently test fired.
The laser beam riding guidance system means that the firer must remain focussed on the target and whilst this makes countering it difficult the firing platform has to remain exposed. Only one target at a time can be attacked with this guidance method which might limit its use against multiple swarms, however, this is a reasonable cost trade off and because it has a high speed, depending on range, this focus time may not be all that great.
The upgrade path, specifically a low cost semi active laser (SAL) seeker would allow the missile launch and target designation platforms to be different.
What intrigues me the most about LMM is its flexibility, being helicopter launched is just one of the means in which it can be used.
The LMM could also potentially arm the Watchkeeper unmanned system and is nominally slated to do so as part of the development path, although the extra weight might impact on performance in other areas it might be a reasonable trade off in some circumstances. Watchkeeper is already quite heavy compared to the design it is based on although engine improvements might also mitigate this extra weight.
For fleeting targets of opportunity it would offer something quite interesting and improve the flexibility of Watchkeeper, even if there would be an additional training burden.
LMM has been fired from a Scheibel Camcopter and shown on a BAE Systems Fury UAV
If it can be used on Wildcat and Watchkeeper, why not Apache or the King Air 300 based Sentinels or even an A400, Harvest Hawk style?
One might even imagine a pair being used on the Base-ISTAR aerostats to provide a snap shot capability against fleeting targets, it has zero recoil when fired.
The LMM has also been shown on a naval mount, Seahawk Sigma, as below, combined with a 30mm Bushmaster automatic cannon for naval applications. MSI are one of those low profile UK defence manufacturers that deserves to be heard about a lot more.
The Turkish company Aselsan has shown the LMM on a naval mount with 4 LMM’s
Aselsan teamed up with the patrol vessel maker, Yonca Onuk, to develop the two axis gyrostabilised mount and off mount electro optical director.
Because the LMM has been designed to fit within the existing physical and electrical footprint of the Starstreak HVM missile it is not inconceivable that it could be used on the numerous launchers that have been developed or in use.
One such example is the Thor system, which could carry a mix of LMM and Hellfire as needed.
Aselsan have also shown a remotely operated weapon system (RWS) fitted with a 2 round LMM 12.7mm HMG combination.
In a land environment LMM could provide a lower yield alternative to Javelin in complex environments where precision and a reduced blast radius would be useful.
Perhaps even a new lease of life for the Stormer HVM vehicles.
We can exploit the LMM across multiple domains, not just maritime.
I think the LMM has a great deal of export potential and of great utility across multiple platforms and environments, anyone else agree?