The Thales Martlet is also called the Lightweight Multirole Missile, or LMM. It is described by Thales as;
In UK service, it will arm the Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter.
Martlet meets the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) requirement, FASGW(L)
LLM Martlet History
If Sea Skua was a response to missile-armed Soviet fast attack craft, Martlet is a response to the fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) threat as characterised by those operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Martlet missiles heritage goes back much further than that, though, and its origin is a surface to air missile, not an air to surface missile. Javelin replaced Blowpipe and Javelin-S15 (Starburst) replaced Javelin, which was then replaced by Starstreak HVM, much of the technology has evolved into the Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile. Instead of developing aerodynamic data for a new missile design, Thales used data from Starburst as the starting point, a cost effective and wholly sensible approach.
2008 saw the FASGW(L) requirement emerge for the Royal Navy to counter the fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) threat.
The paper ‘Iran’s Naval Forces – From Guerilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy‘ published in 2009 by the US Office of Naval Intelligence was seen by many as the significant point for Western forces appreciation of the threat but the Royal Navy and others had already started work and defined a number of requirements, FASGW(L) being one of them. Helicopters would continue to provide force protection but instead of the longer range and larger systems like Sea Skua or Hellfire/Brimstone, a smaller missile was required with pinpoint accuracy that could be used in typically restrictive Rules of Engagement environments. The FN Herstal M3M 12.7mm HMG, BAE Q-SIGHT GRSS and DRS Thermal Weapon Sight were also introduced to improve force protection and provide an element of ‘graduated response’
Whilst the M3M and sighting improvements were relatively easy and quick to integrate the FASGW(L) would take longer. A number of alternatives were investigated including guided 70mm rockets but one of the significant issues with this approach was their lack of manoeuvrability against a rapidly moving target and the Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker typically used had issues with low reflectivity targets i.e. black rubber boats.
After starting negotiations in 2005, in 2009, the Air Defence Availability Project (ADAPT) saw the MoD, Thales and MBDA agree on an availability contract that would see HVM/Starstreak and Rapier FSC to its out of service date in 2020. This contract also included provision for a new fire control and target tracking system.
The Thales part of the contract was worth £200 million, MBDA, £156 million.
Concept work continued with FASGW(L) and it became clear that the Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight (SACLOS) Starstreak missile would form an ideal candidate. The laser beam-riding guidance system is impossible to jam and works with low reflectivity targets.
In 2011, Thales issued a press release;
This was the MoD making a value judgement about funding priorities, by shifting money already committed to Starstreak/HVM, it was judging the threat to Royal Navy shipping of greater and a more imminent risk that ground-launched air defence threats against the British Army.
The MoD awarded a £90 million contract to Agusta Westland in 2014 to test, integrate and install both FASGW Light and Heavy missiles onto the Royal Navy’s 28 Wildcat helicopters.
Also in 2014, the £48 million Design and Manufacture contract for FASGW(L) LMM went to Thales, to complete development activity.
In addition to the helicopter launched variant for the MoD, Thales have been actively exploring other options. LMM has been seen on various UAV’s and in 2014, a tripod launched variant was tested in the Ground to Ground role. Thales have also partnered with MSI and integrated a multiple round LMM launcher with the 30mm Bushmaster cannon, the Seahawk SIGMA. The Turkish defence manufacturer, Aseslan, also have a partnership agreement with Thales. They have created a number of different naval pedestal launchers for LMM.
In order to meet the requirement for a very small precision munition for arming tactical UAV’s, Thales initiated some work on a freefall version of LMM and has developed the concept, showing it at recent defence exhibitions light aircraft and UAVs. In another partnership arrangement, Textron is marketing freefall LMM as the Fury.
In July 2016, Leonardo Helicopters awarded a contract to General Dynamics to upgrade the Stores Management System on Wildcat to enable control of Martlet and Sea Venom.
The scope of the contract includes;
- Develop new safety-critical software to control the complex MIL-STD-1760 missile interfaces.
- Implement plug and play software architecture, which will significantly reduce the cost of integrating future weapons.
- Introduce hardware design changes to the existing SMS design to support two additional weapon stations on the helicopter.
- Design and manufacture a handheld test set to allow the helicopter electrical interfaces to be rapidly tested in conjunction with the SMS Built-in-Test capability.
- Re-test and certify the overall SMS functionality in accordance with UK safety standards DEF-STAN 0055/56.
- Update the existing in-service SMS equipment to the ‘FASGW’ standard.
Also in July 2016, the MoD announced financial support to MBDA and Leonardo to integrate Martlet and Sea Venom on legacy Lynx aircraft to enhance export opportunities.
Initial trials will commence in Q4 2016 with an in service target of 2018.
It was also recently announced that the British Army would integrate LMM with their Starstreak launch systems, namely the single cannister launcher, Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) and FV433 Stormer vehicle.
Thales will also integrate LMM with their Rapid Ranger vehicle mount and have proposed this for Warrior and Ajax.
LMM Martlet Capabilities and Options
The Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) is pretty much as described.
It weighs 13kg, 1.3m long and 76mm in diameter (wing span of 260mm). It flies at a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 and has a maximum range of 8km, minimum range is 400m, propelled by a two-stage rocket motor. The shaped charge fragmentation warhead weighs 3kg and is initiated by a laser proximity sensor in the nose.
Primary guidance utilises a laser beam riding system. The operator places the laser point on the target and sensors in the rear of the missile guide it in. A secondary semi-active laser homing facility is also available although it is not clear whether the version coming into service with the MoD will feature this guidance mode.
It is multi-role because it can be used in the air to ground role, as well as surface to surface and air to air. To reinforce its flexibility credentials, LMM can be launched from a variety of ground, sea and air vehicles and is also available in a freefall version.
For UK service, it will be contained in a multi-tube pylon assembly for Wildcat.
As Martlet/LMM has developed various iterations have been seen in images but the latest seems to show a row of three beneath a row of two, for a five missile per hardpoint arrangement. Although there are no plans for integration on Apache attack Helicopter it would provide a smaller warhead precision attack capability to bridge the gap between 30mm cannon and Hellfire/Brimstone. This would also provide Apache with a counter UAS weapon.
Using powered LMM in the air to air role is a development of the various studies and development programmes that saw it arming Apache helicopters. One of the roles being focussed on now is that of Counter-UAS. The LMM is much lower cost than a traditional air to air missile and using the laser beam-riding guidance system reduces the impact of any countermeasures.
Arming an unmanned aircraft with LMM and a stabilised laser designation system will allow an unmanned aircraft to attack and destroy another unmanned aircraft.
For maritime applications, Thales have partnered with MSI and Aseslan in Turkey.
MSI have demonstrated a 7 missile launcher on their Seahawk SIGMA mount, a similar mount to that widely found on Royal Navy vessels, the Automated Small Calibre Gun (ASG). The LMM missiles would be used outside the range of the 30mm cannon or in situations where a guided weapon was deemed to provide the better option for target destruction.
Aseslan has developed the Missile Launching System (MSL) that carries four or eight LMM in a stabilised mount complete with electro-optical sighting system.
The maritime launcher from ASESLAN has now completed all qualification firings.
Although Thales completed much of the initial development work on Freefall LMM, their partnership with Textron has allowed them to integrate the Textron tri-mode fuse (point, airburst, and delay) and GPS/INS guidance module.
The 6kg, 680mm long freefall LMM, marketed as Fury by Textron, is a very small guided munition that allows ISTAR focussed lightweight RPAS and aircraft to carry offensive capability, thus allowing them to attack fleeting targets of opportunity, light vehicles or mortar/rocket firing positions for example. Freefall munitions also provide a wider engagement envelope than forward firing types, to the side or behind for example.
A single standard weapon rail can carry three Freefall LMM in a low drag tandem mounting although other configurations have also been shown, 2×3 for example.
From 10,000ft, it reportedly has a range of between 4 and 5km.
Freefall LMM/Fury is typically used against soft skinned vehicles and similar targets and Textron have indicated up to 24 could be carried on a Reaper UAS.
In the ground launch role, LMM can make use of any of the launching systems used for the Starstreak High-Velocity Missile. Thales have demonstrated firing an LMM from the Stormer HVM system, Thor, and later Rapid Ranger launch turrets equipped with an Ultra Electronics servo system. Thor became the Multi Mission System.
Although the UK has not formally expressed any interest in the ground launched role the emerging small UAS threat may yet see that change. The smaller Rapid Ranger launch system is small and light enough to be mounted on 4×4 type vehicles. Although the LMM does not pack the same punch as the larger Javelin/Hellfire/Brimstone it is relatively cheap and with the smaller warhead, better suited to some targets, a sniper team in a built up area for example.
LMM can also be fired from the Lightweight Multiple Launcher
LMM is self evidently a flexible and versatile weapon.
To wrap up, this video shows the full range of LMM firing options