Vehicle launched anti tank missiles are a particular hobby horse of mine, don’t ask why, I don’t know!
Looking back over the FRES series we used to have a rather interesting capability with the Swingfire missile and Striker vehicle.
Of all the CVR(T) variants, Striker was arguably the most ingenious.
Intended to provide anti tank top cover for the other variants it was equipped with a launch system for the Swingfire anti tank guided missile.
After the cancellation of the Orange William missile in 1959 Fairey had continued development work on wire guided anti tank missiles and this would result in Swingfire. Introduced in 1969, Swingfire was a brute of a missile. The warhead weighed in at 7kg alone and it had a couple of unique features that set it apart from its rivals.
Upon launch, it could immediately switch direction by 90 degrees using a ‘jetivator’ and the sighting equipment could be dismounted to a distance of 30m and 15m higher or lower, thus, the launch vehicle could be advantageously placed for concealment. With the missile launcher in the stowed position Striker looked like just another armoured personnel carrier, not the lethal anti tank machine it was.
The vehicle could carry 5 missiles in ready to launch boxes with an additional 5 stowed in the hull.
In true Research Establishment fashion, the boffins determined that the kill probability of each Swingfire was 40% so it would take precisely two and a half missiles to kill each enemy tank, also that a vehicle engaging enemy tanks with ATGW would only kill two before itself being destroyed.
Therefore five missiles were all that needed to be fitted (or so the story went)
Swingfire also found its way onto a number of heavy and lightweight platforms, the FV438, various Land Rovers and other light vehicles.
Most of the alternative platforms were mostly trials vehicles or did not stay in service that long but Striker endured and saw service in the Middle East in 1991 and 2003. In both operations it was judged to be a success, the Lessons Learned compendium for Operation TELIC made a specific recommendation to review the out of service date.
In 1986 the FV120 Spartan Milan Compact Turret (MCT) variant was introduced, although Milan’s maximum range of 2,000m was a significant step down from Swingfire at 4,000m.
To compensate for the lack of FV438 in armoured infantry a number of Milan firing posts were, basically, welded to the turret tops of Warriors in 2003.
FFLAV defined a requirement for an anti tank missile carrier and so did TRACER, TRACER going so far as demonstrating a mockup equipped with Brimstone missiles.
The GKN ‘Stealth Warrior’ was also shown with a missile carrying turret.
Stormer 30 took a similar missile armed turret approach.
FRES also specified an anti tank missile carrying variant called Overwatch.
With the original vision for FRES pretty much dead and buried and the Swingfire and Milan missiles long out of service the Army does not have anything comparable to Striker or FV438 in service and no plans for an equivalent either.
The concept it seems is dead and buried, at least for the British Army.
Perhaps the argument is that with the increasing availability of precision fires from land, air and even sea, there is no longer a need but, operational experience and reams of analysis would seem to have a different opinion and the gapping of this capability a big mistake?
In other nations armed forces Hellfire has been used in a number ground launched guises, as these examples show
The venerable TOW missile continues to be upgraded and mounted on a number of armoured and lightweight vehicles. The latest version reportedly has a 7km plus range and much shorter flight time.
There was even a concept of mounting TOW on a Spartan
The German Cold War concept of elevating HOT missiles on the Jagdleopard or Panther was born of the notion that total control of the air was not a given.
Lots of interesting stuff but as I mentioned above, the concept of a dedicated anti tank missile carrier seems like yesterdays news (apart from for US forces that is)
Which brings us up to date.
There seems to have a cluster of trials and announcements on the subject of vehicle mounted anti tank missiles.
The first out of the traps was the Long Range Surveillance and Attack Vehicle (LRSAV) from Lockheed Martin.
This combined a Stryker, an elevating sensor mast with laser designator and a missile combination of the hard hitting Hellfire II for armoured targets and the DAGR guided 70mm rocket for smaller or non armoured targets.
From the press release.
The LRSAV is a fully integrated, turreted, ground-vehicle weapon system. It uses advanced missile and weapon control-system technologies and a newly developed 15-inch, spherical, mast-mounted electro-optical/infrared sensor to enable targeting and employment of missiles from a wide range of surface platforms.
During the tests, the vehicle-mounted LRSAV system launched a HELLFIRE II missile from 6.4 km and a DAGR missile from 3.5 km. Both missiles successfully impacted their targets. In both tests, missile lock-on-before-launch and lock-on-after-launch capabilities were used to demonstrate LRSAV’s flexibility for various engagement scenarios. Additionally, an AH-64D Apache helicopter equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) was used to remotely designate the short-range target, validating LRSAV’s cooperative battlefield-engagement capability.
The tests confirm that the LRSAV weapon system is a low risk solution that can support multiple missions. Lockheed Martin’s LRSAV weapon system delivers a superior capability that will engage targets from safe standoff distances, and enhanced performance for increased mission success, survivability and low collateral damage.
Lockheed Martin then followed that up with a couple of Javelin firing trials that used two different vehicles and launch configurations.
A lightweight launcher on a TAPV vehicle and a heavier system on a Boxer, the latter being test fired in the UK [Insert FRES rumour here]
At the moment we require Javelin teams to dismount and the ability to use Striker/Swingfire from cover using remote targeting equipment is a capability we longer have.
These solutions from Lockheed Martin would seem to offer a relatively low risk method of getting back the offboard designation, fire from cover and under armour capability.
Instead of Hellfire II and DAGR a UK version could equally use Hellfire II, or Brimstone, paired with the Lightweight Multi-Role Missile (LMM) which has only recently been subject to a $48 million order from the MoD for Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters.
Thales have proposed a number of seekers for LMM as alternatives to the current beam riding version, including GPS, which might make for an interesting non line of sight weapon out to 8km.
Such a system could even make use of the Exactor missile system, the SPIKE NLOS, now in service.
As Jean Luc might say