UK defence issues and the odd container or two

In Search of Exactor

The EXACTOR missile system has an interesting background and demonstrates just how difficult it is to keep secrets in a modern interconnected society. Rumours first surfaced a few years ago with the release of a video on LiveLeak (now deleted) that showed one being used to destroy a Taleban IED team. The BBC broadcast a documentary called The Bomb Squad that had brief commentary on the system being used from Camp Bastion and there were some snippets released in official reports, the first one I think was the MoD Annual Accounts 2010-2011 about pinch point trades of all things, reporting a shortfall of 1 person against an establishment of 24.

Janes postulated that it was in fact the Spike NLOS (Non Line of Sight), Spike NLOS was formerly called the Tamuz missile and has been in service with the IDF for several years, since 1981 in fact, although obviously in earlier versions.

In addition to the basics of operational security the origin of Spike NLOS would have been of obvious concern.

The 2010 Royal Artillery Briefing Guide described how 39 Regiment Royal Artillery were re-organising to provide an integrated precision fires capability comprising a Brigade HQ Targeting Cell, GMLRS troop and two EXACTOR troops.

In 2011 Angus Robertson tabled a Parliamentary Question;

Angus Robertson (SNP Westminster Leader; Moray, Scottish National Party)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) what vehicle is capable of firing the Exactor missile;

(2) whether his Department has acquired M133 armoured personnel carriers under urgent operational requirements for operations in Afghanistan.

Peter Luff (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

The UK has a range of systems deployed in Afghanistan to support coalition forces and protect civilians. However, I am withholding further details on individual capabilities as their disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

So basically, get lost!

There was also some information released on L and N Battery Association website

L Bty were the first to fire EXACTOR on Op HERRICk 11 and used it to devastating effect

Not a great deal of information emerged after that, apart the M113 vehicles that were used originally causing several issues and one or two LiveLeak videos that had some interesting snippets of night firings that look very much like those of Spike NLOS/Tamuz on YouTube.

Last year, another Jane’s article confirmed that the system was being bought into core and older missiles replaced with NLOS Mk5′s with dual mode EO/IR seekers after the UK had provided development funds, it also mentioned an Exactor 2. There were even hints of mounting them on the Wildcat for South Korea and as a hedge against the FASGW(H) not proceeding to contract.

It also confirmed that over 600 missiles had been purchased.

The most surprising revelation in the article was that Exactor was obtained in 2007 for use in Basra, with the UK leasing two launch vehicles and purchasing another twelve direct from Israeli war stocks. First users were 1 Royal Horse Artillery with 7 Royal Horse Artillery picking up the role soon after.

I also suspect with Warthog being bought into core for the Royal Artillery, for supporting the Desert Hawk mini UAV, Exactor 2 might find its way on to that vehicle, or the Viking BVs10′s that are planned to be used for Watchkeeper. Teaming Desert Hawk with Exactor would create a powerful combination.

Since that Jane’s article it has all gone a bit quiet, no news of Exactor 2, if indeed Exactor 2 is actually a new missile or just a better means of mounting it. One of the immeasurably knowledgeable TD commentariat recently mentioned a new trailer for Exactor!

Spike NLOS is not a small missile weighing in at 71kg and has been seen mounted on a box launcher attached to both tracked and wheeled vehicles in addition to a naval version called Typhoon NLOS

Typhoon NLOS In Search of Exactor
Typhoon NLOS
Spike NLOS 640x425 In Search of Exactor
Spike NLOS launched from a Sandcat wheeled vehicle
Spike NLOS wheeled vehicle 640x480 In Search of Exactor
Spike NLOS wheeled vehicle
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle 640x426 In Search of Exactor
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle 02 640x425 In Search of Exactor
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle

The two videos below showcase its party trick, Beyond Line of Sight

טיל תמוז פוגע בבית מחבלים במלחמת לבנון השנייה

טיל תמוז פוגע במטרה נעה

Targets can be acquired post launch and using a data link guided onto the target from the launch post, or other location with suitable equipment. With a range of approximately 25km and a number of warhead choices it is an extremely potent weapon. By having that all essential ‘man in the loop’ guidance system many of the complex and challenging Rules of Engagement (ROE) constraints can be addressed, reducing response time considerably.

The use of a radio data link enables initial targeting information to be passed by off-board systems such as other ground units, UAV’s, helicopters or other aircraft and then the operator basically picks up from that point and flies the missile onto the target. The missile flies to a waypoint and the operator guides it for the final 3km.

Separating the launch point from the initial gatherer of targeting information is a significant advantage.

The South Koreans purchased them following the attacks against  Yeongpyeong Island in 2010 and are likely to use them in the counter battery role.

Last month, Janes reported on a series of potential upgrades to the Rafael Spike family, including the NLOS that is being modified to accept a Semi Active Laser seeker to enable an additional means of providing target information to the missile, terminal guidance is still said to be electro optical.

A while ago this type of capability promise was being proposed by guided missiles that used fibre optic cables in the place of the Spike NLOS data link, Polyphem and EFOG-M for example. Shorter range variants of Spike also use fibre optic cable links.

These earlier fibre optic guided missiles showed real potential, before they were cancelled.

Fiber-Optic Guided Missile FOG-M

The US Precision Attack Missile launched from the NLOS launch system would also have provided a somewhat similar capability.

FutureWeapons – NLOSLS (Non-Line-of-Sight-Launcher-System)

The Brazilian company, Avibras, also have a similar system called FOG-MPM

Hold on, this all sounds expensive.

It is, until you consider that these non line of sight missiles with a 20km plus range and very fast reaction times can dramatically reduce the need for close air support delivered either from fast jets or aircraft.

Add in the off-board targeting, fire from concealed positions and how they could be employed as a complimentary system to GMLRS and the cost barriers start to break down, unless of course, you want lots of nice Apaches and F35′s.

In a maritime context, we have recently been discussing the news that the Type 26 Frigate will be fitted with a BAE Mk45 Mod 4 gun system, this would be a great compliment and would enable precision land attack without over the target ‘eyes on’ from any number of vessels, large and small.

Because of their portability and low logistics requirement one could imagine them having great utility in a range of operational scenarios, from a Patrol Base or on the move from a vehicle.

If Exactor has been bought into core then it would be churlish to complain but can we have a legitimate concern about yet another boutique complex weapon entering service with no commonality with any of the other services.

Have we, yet again, missed a commonality trick?

I say this because I wonder if we might, with less of an urgent need for deployed capability in Afghanistan, thought about the possibility of using Brimstone.

The missile body, guidance, warhead and data link systems are proven, in service, manufactured in the UK and do not have any political baggage. Non line of sight data links are not rocket science (:)) and neither are optical guidance systems, remember Martel.

In fact, MBDA, the makers of Brimstone, have a data link system called the Universal Miniaturized Missile Data-Link (UMMD) that is designed for LOS and NLOS applications, there, on their shelves. Click here for a brochure.

None of this is to suggest it would somehow be easy to turn Brimstone into something offering the same capabilities as Spike NLOS but the base system is there, data links available and launch platforms relatively easy to integrate.

This would be largely launch platform agnostic, imagine putting them on a Viking or Warthog, a Pinzgauer or Husky, ATMP or MAN SV truck, a Royal Marines hovercraft, Royal Navy frigate and Wildcat or even inside a container.

In my recent detailed on post on Brimstone I suggested it could also be used in the Swingfire role, long range anti tank, and it still could, but the possibilities of a non line of sight Brimstone, or baby GMLRS with additional features, is equally interesting.

81mm Roll Corrected Mortar, Brimstone- NLOS, Light Gun with correcting fuse, AS90 with Excalibur and GMLRS, flight suits, strictly optional?

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

35 Comments

  1. Obsvr

    “Teaming Desert Hawk with Exactor would create a powerful combination.”

    Another case of ‘direct fire thinking’ :-)

    The basic concept underlying artillery C&C is that any observer can get fire from any fire unit in range, and networked data comms make this a lot simpler that in days of yore. UAVs are merely observers using technology more expensive expensive than binoculars. That said it would be interesting to know whether all observers will have to request fire from Exactor or GMLRS, or whether some will be authorised to order it as is the normal UK, etc, practice but not in every army most notably the US.

  2. Daniele Mandelli

    Good article, thank you.

    I have followed this with interest over the years.

    I think the greatest need for OPSEC and the usual Parliamentary evasiveness is the concept of buying Jewish kit for use against Muslims.

    That said, a welcome addition to the RA being bought into core. I already read on Gabriel’s blog which batteries will use it.

    Would be good to see a British Army Exactor photo eventually.

  3. Derek

    I suspect the reason for the secrecy relates to how and exactly what it is being used for.

    The interesting thing about it being brought into core relates to the increasing precision being demanded from and delivered by artillery systems.

  4. Observer

    Be fair Obsvr, not all infantrymen are FSO/STORM trained, so sometimes all you get from them is “there are tanks near point X”. Much easier to get your own eyes on than give someone an emergency crash course on protocols. That said, I severely doubt that a UAV asset for an entire brigade would be assigned specifically to a single battery or even battery type. Too many people want eyes on from the brigade commander all the way down to company commanders. More likely, the Hawk will be integrated into a Brigade who will then pump the information down to any battery when the higher ups call for fire.

    With UAVs, who knows, maybe the brass at the back do have a better site awareness than the people in the front these days.

  5. Jed

    Interesting that you bring up your commonality point. A good question to ask, but I suspect it would actually turn out to cost more in the long run and would have taken too long to get into service at the time.

  6. Simon

    Another example of CEC type capability – shame we’re so far behind the times.

    Can the NLOS version be targetted by any of the British Army’s UAVs, or would they have to rely on Wildcat to do that job?

  7. Observer

    Jed, ironically, that really depends on how much red tape HMG wants to dick around with. The Typhoon mount system is drop in, plug and play.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/xtemujin/8727274609/

    They haul this thing out onto the wharf whenever there is an open house exhibition. If you can install and uninstall in on a wharf every few months (no penetration), I doubt slapping it onto a ship is going to be a big deal. Unless we were really paranoid and wired the wharf “for but not with”. Nah… I think….

    It’s more of a buy and bolt on system than something installed. Biggest installation is probably going to be the guidance screen and controls and that is stand alone as well.

  8. Think Defence

    Jed, not saying we should have used Brimstone for UOR but now that Afghanistan is drawing down we should really start thinking about not making the hotch potch of UOR’s worse by buying systems with no regards for commonality

  9. Simester

    Having looked at the air-launched MBDA SPEAR missile recently (http://www.mbda-systems.com/e-catalogue/#/solutions/air/29/introduction), I thought this would make a great ‘mini cruise missile’ for shipboard or other platform use.
    I don’t know the technical feasibility of converting it to vertical launch, but it looks like it could go down the ‘ASRAAM to Sea Ceptor/CAMM’ route, with the addition of a soft-launch piston and directional booster. In terms of length, it is shorter than CAMM so should fit into a standard Sylver/MK41 length tube, and providing it’s about the same diameter as CAMM, it could be quad-packed into a single launcher. Much like the land-based Rapier replacement CAMM version, they could also create a truck based palletised version for Army use.
    So, the advantages of the VLS SPEAR would be very similar to the advantage of Sea Ceptor/CAMM – proven technology (so smaller development costs), commonality amongst variants (it’s pretty much the same missile across Army, Navy and RAF) and it’s very capable (multi-mode seeker, multi-mode warhead, two-way datalink, 50km plus range).

  10. Engineer Tom

    I like the idea of mounting it on a T26, but the question is where? The VLS route could save this but at what cost?

  11. Not a Boffin

    Is this weapon specified or qualified for use onboard in the complex EM environment on a naval vessel?

    Do not confuse proposed target set, or being launched from a static barge on a Scottish range, with being suitable for use from a warship. If not specified from the off, can be very difficult to do without entirely re-engineering the weapon.

    See Brimstone for details……..

  12. Swimming Trunks

    Been researching the SPIKE family and electro-optically guided missiles for awhile. I don’t like to get too carried away but I think they could be a genuine “game changer”. RAND did a study about making light rapid reaction forces more lethal/survivable which I’ve mentioned; the best system was the E-FOGM when linked to FO/scout vehicles (what RAND called Hunter/Stand Off Killer). Now the E-FOGM had a range of about 15km; SPIKE ER (TOW sized roughly) has a range of 8km and N-LOS a range of 25km.

    Now the really interesting bit is the SPIKE MR and LR – the MR is very similar to the Javelin and has a similar range of 2.5km. The LR has a range of 4km but appears to be a near identical missile to the MR, the only difference being the option of locking on after launch due to the electro-optical guidance system; so for a missile asyastem roughly the same of the Javelin you can have a infantry carried missile with longer range, precision strike capability, and able to be fired from defilade.

    http://www.diydashboard.com/RTNImages/Dec10/7920.pdf

  13. jonesy

    Diameter of FLAADS round is given as 166mm and for SPEAR the general figure is 180mm.

    Both of these, of course, being considerably narrower than the ESSMs 10″ girth!. I’d imagine then that the FLAADS individual cannister may be a touch snug for SPEAR, but, a slightly broader cannister, utilising the same technology, would be feasible that would still quadpack into a Mk41 or Sylver cell. Could well be an interesting development in lightweight strike from the sea where it to be pursued.

    Personally I’m a little more excited by the potential for it as a terminal phase effector if allied to a ‘bus stage’ like the conceptual CVS401 Perseus propulsion section. A cluster of 4-6 SPEARS being rapid bussed out a couple of hundred kms on a fleeting contact, possessed of range, endurance and intelligence to go solo-hunting independently and capable of rejecting any nun-and-orphan loaded passenger ferries could be a very serious weapons system indeed!.

  14. Chris Werb

    A non-line of sight surface launched Brimstone wouldn’t work very well in a counterinsurgency environment in the way that Exactor does with autonomous target (re)acquisition and engagement simply because it’s too fast. Even if you put a person in the loop there simply wouldn’t be time for target acquisition or aimpoint refinement.

  15. DavidNiven

    Wasn’t the Spike system in the running during the competition for the Milan replacement that gave us Javelin. It seems a well thought out system/family, does anyone know why the Javelin won over the Spike?

    (not got an axe to grind just curious)

  16. CheshireCat

    Interesting stuff indeed!

    I’ve always felt that the Stormer HVM would be the perfect vehicle for mounting Exactor, as it’s already got a trainable mount, there would be appear to be plenty going spare judging by those regularly on sale at Withams, and as the RA already use them there would be no issues in terms of servicability.

    Guess we’ll find out in the fullness of time!

  17. Chris Werb

    Well, I’d swear that I saw a press release to the effect that a Spike variant had won a competition to replace MILAN, but only with UK rapid light/intervention forces. We then ended up with Javelin.

  18. Observer

    Chris, think it was the MATADOR LAW, you guys filed it as the ASM (Anti-structure munition)

  19. mr.fred

    If I remember correctly, Javelin was originally acquired as the Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon, so I don’t know where Spike would fit into that picture.

    As for Spike vs Javelin, I could only guess at reasons, but they could include:
    Cost
    Availability
    Political aspects (note the secrecy re. Exactor)
    Performance – maybe minimum range, going by Wiki.
    Ignorance

  20. DavidNiven

    @mr.fred

    United Kingdom
    In February 2001, the British MoD awarded two contracts valued at $8.8 million for a yearlong assessment of the Javelin and Spike-MR. The Spike was being offered by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems teamed with Matra/BAe Dynamics while the Javelin by a team of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The UK would like to field a lightweight antitank missile system for its Joint Rapid Reaction Force by 2005. In February 2003, the British MoD selected the Javelin.[33]
    (From Wiki)

    There’s a few pictures of British soldiers using the missile on this site
    http://www.army-technology.com/projects/gill/

  21. Obsvr

    Observer — historically RA has tried to avoid relying on infantry map reading as the basis for opening fire! IN days of yore it was called ‘infantry target indication’ the goal was for an RA observer to identify the target as quickly as possible and apply his superior map reading skills.

    Simon —- UAVs don’t do ‘targeting’, their operators do. All the UAV does is provide an image to its ground control station where the operators are human beings. These men and women are trained to engage targets as is any other artillery observer. AAC pilots are also trained to engage targets with artillery fire (well the used to be and I assume still are!). The RAF could have been but decided it was beneath their dignity in the 1950s.

  22. Observer

    My apologies to Chris, thought you misidentified the missile. Guess not. For a one year trial period only which the Javelin won.

    ST, it is a joint venture and I believe RAFAEL can be convinced to release it, but first, there must be a demand or at least a Request For Info from a government. Isn’t the EXACTOR the N-LOS?

    Obsvr, very wise. Some people’s map reading skills are not the best, not to mention some maps issued to the infantry may be outdated, leading to several misplaced landmarks.

  23. Obsvr

    Adding

    In the UK artillery system any artillery observer can engage any target that they see (as long as a delivery system is within range). The observer may see the target directly (by eyeball or binoculars or NVDs), by ground surveillance radar or by airborne sensors. It’s also useful to note that UK is one of the few armies to operate Special OPs, who are basically ‘artillery special forces’ operating behind the enemy’s forward elements.

  24. Red Trousers

    Obsvr,

    Don’t forget formation recce. We all trained extensively on both navigation and arty target indication. During Gulf One each Squadron had both a FOO and a FAC (my Squadron’s were from 1 RHA and a feller playing hooky for the war from the King’s Troop, and both were bloody excellent), but because of the geographic spread, most of the fire missions called in (over 200) were by recce wagon commanders.

  25. Observer

    RT, how bad (or good) was artillery allocation timing? Was a unit permanently attached to you or was there a rotating schedule on when artillery was available for you? Or were they assigned “permanently” for the duration of a specific push to an objective?

  26. Red Trousers

    Observer,

    Each Sabre Squadron had a Tac Party of FOO plus crew, and a separate FAC plus crew. There was a Battery commander overseeing the lot. As per British Army doctrine, guns and launchers were prioritised according to which formation were main effort at the time. We certainly never had an issue with lack of fire support. There were also always aircraft on call: mostly F/A18s from the USMC, with an ANGLICO Team somewhere nearby.

  27. ArmChairCivvy

    RE “Each Sabre Squadron had a Tac Party of FOO plus crew, and a separate FAC plus crew”

    As far as I know, the attempts to have one vehicle that could combine the functions, may be lessen the overall number of members somewhat, but have all the relevant kit onboard, have come to nothing?

  28. Obsvr

    @RT there are never enough arty Tac parties, so it is pretty much inevitable that some supported arms have to take care of themselves. For the last 40 years good simulators have made this fairly straightforward from a training point of view, particularly if the fire missions are straightforward. GPS and laser range finders also help!

    IIRC in GW1 the formation recce regt was under command of the CRA, with an SO1 arty controlling fire against depth targets. The special OP guys had also done a hasty re-mounting into AFVs to operate in depth. A somewhat unusual set-up, but there were three regts available for depth fire, although in the case of the M109 regt ‘depth’ was a relative term, MLRS and M110A2 were a somewhat better. However, the manoeuvre bdes had their DS regts and units their DS btys, incremented with additional observers.

  29. ArmChairCivvy

    I wonder if any piccies of these survive? ” The special OP guys had also done a hasty re-mounting into AFVs to operate in depth.”

    Fast-forwarding to today, the arty experiments of getting both parties onto a single Warrior did not work, and “two’s” to combine the teams that would work together but in two vehicles were not made available (whether it was budget,or scarce overall Warrior numbers… not reported).
    - I have been always wondering why the experiment was not run on a converted AS90, which
    1. were drastically pruned in number at about the same time
    2. have plenty of space (once the gun & rounds are removed)
    3. could be supported just the same way as the associated batteries, those with guns still on them?

  30. Obsvr

    ACC – wrong assumption. Once tac groups are deployed their EME support comes from the manoeuvre unit they are with. You didn’t seriously think that the bty EME routinely goes forward from the gun area to fix OP/FO vehicles when the coy/sqn EME are on the spot?

  31. ArmChairCivvy

    I give full points on the mecchano kit part of the argument.

    Can we pls now look at the business end of it:
    = one vehicle, Warrior, too cramped for the number of operators required
    + looking like a Xmas tree withallthextras on the outside (and not enough power for them, as a lot of the “business” is done while stationary…may be even camouflaged (IR nets have been a std issue for decades in many armies)

    AS90 any good… For the reasons I tried to outline, but obviously failed miserably?

  32. mr.fred

    ACC,
    Using the AS90 chassis as the basis for the OPV does have a few disadvantages. The Warrior is better protected, looks like other front line vehicles (if one discounts the antennae) and shares the logistics of the front line vehicles

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