Reaper and Mr Dual Mode Brimstone

MBDA and the Big Safari programme have released a handful of images of recent firing trials of the Dual Mode Brimstone from a Reaper unmanned aircraft.

MBDA has successfully demonstrated its Dual Mode BRIMSTONE missile on an MQ-9 REAPER Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), scoring nine direct hits against a range of targets including very high speed and manoeuvring vehicles.

Dual Mode BRIMSTONE is the combat proven weapon of choice for the engagement of moving and manoeuvring targets, and targets in high collateral risk / urban environments. BRIMSTONE can now provide REAPER crews with a weapon that reduces collateral damage risk and demonstrates first pass, single shot lethality against high speed manoeuvring targets on land and at sea and in complex environments.

Conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 at US Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the trials were undertaken on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Air Warfare Centre Unmanned Air Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron, Defence Equipment & Support Weapons Operating Centre, United States Air Force’s BIG SAFARI Organisation, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated and MBDA. All of the RAF’s primary and secondary trials objectives were met: demonstrating the integration functionality implemented, safe carriage, safe release, system targeting and end game performance whilst gathering data to support optimisation and clearance activities.

The trials began with captive carry of Avionics and Environmental Data Gathering Missiles, proving the successful integration of the two systems and gathering additional evidence to support future clearance activities. These were quickly followed by a series of live Operational Missile and inert Telemetry Missile firings.

The firings were taken from realistic ‘middle of the envelope’ profiles; typically 20,000ft release altitude and 7km – 12km plan range, with the platform being remotely piloted in operationally representative beyond line of sight (SATCOM) conditions, with tracking and designation of targets being conducted in a mixture of manual-track and auto-track modes

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 04

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 06

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 07

 

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 03

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 13

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 09

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 010

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 11

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 12

MBDA Brimstone - Reaper 02

The anti armour boss marches on…

Come on USAF, just get on and buy the bloody thing.

You know it makes sense!

 

READ MORE ABOUT UK COMPLEX WEAPONS

UK Complex (Guided) Weapons – Reference

 

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Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson
March 21, 2014 9:17 pm

Impressive photos. Just something about drones bores me though. The unmanned thing maybe, as less of a story behind a mission, when it’s a possible failed pilot behind a gamer’s joystick. I know it’s the future, but i doubt it’s going to be as valuable & capable an asset as they are in a Dale Brown novel. Read all the latest but just don’t bother to share story/news or photos anywhere. Bugger i’m an old fart & behind the times. I still want to buy a Hurricane when i win the Euromillions.

TED
TED
March 21, 2014 9:28 pm

@Paul Robinson Are you TRYING to p*ss off the RAF?

Topman
Topman
March 21, 2014 9:43 pm

@ TD

‘Come on USAF, just get on and buy the bloody thing.’

If only eh?

WiseApe
March 21, 2014 10:00 pm

Still seems like an expensive way to blow up a pickup truck. But I suppose if you know a high value target is sat in it then it’s worthwhile. Not for everyday use though, perhaps?

William Paul Robinson
William Paul Robinson
March 22, 2014 12:08 am

No TED just the Mod. They think it’s cheaper & easier option & i have severe reservations about that, despite my less than serious comments earlier. A live pilot in a frontline attack a/c takes more tactical & moral decisions, surely than someone sitting behind a console, who is almost certainly more detached from the real situation than a human over the warzone, & in a sense of a gamer doing a long flight sim to the area, than getting excited & over gung ho when at last he/she gets the chance to use the weapons if part of the mission profile, & would love to shoot em all. Ok a bit blanket comment, but what you like after a computer game doing the flight path to target, avoiding ground & air threats & have a chance to have a pop at the a/c taking off or the source of the air threats trying to kill you all the way in earlier? Not everybody, but sure many over react & try to wipe it all out at end of journey, from bloody mindedness, & even forget to check fuel & keep a little self defence weaponry for that just as perilous return to safe airspace & landing alternates. Madame says we’re going to beddy boes after this cigaratte – but maybe i’ll be allowed to come out to play tomorrow – & take the piss out of the Armée de l’Air & Marine Nationale Aeronavale. Bonne nuit, dors bien.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 22, 2014 12:24 am

@WPR – appreciate the sentiment, but cross-referring to other threads about an increasingly uncertain world and the growing potential for the Fall of the West, we will badly need our overwhelming advantage in respect of these sorts of technologies to balance the scales in our favour…I suspect the elapsed time between what some people rather foolishly call our “Wars of Choice”…and our forthcoming “Wars of Necessity” looks to me as though it might be pretty short…

GNB

Observer
Observer
March 22, 2014 5:01 am

@Wise

They use the trunk as a target because it is “cheap”. The actual live target in a shooting war might be a T-90 or any other armoured vehicle designed to cause problems for the people who walk/ride to work.

@William

UAV operators still need clearance to fire from higher authority before they can pop one off usually, so there is a “man in the loop”, most often the guy’s boss who has to write any incident reports if something flew off and blew up something it should not.

I’m more skeptical about the utility of UAVs in an actual “live” war. They are very low performance machines and are vulnerable to any other aircraft or any decent ground based air defence. We got away with using them so far because most scenarios are in areas where there is literally no air threat or air defences. In a total war, these might not have the capability to survive. Operation Mole Cricket got away with it because UAVs were new then and the Syrians had no idea what they were facing. The newness factor is gone and people now know to shoot these flying lawnmowers out of the sky when they can.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 22, 2014 7:46 am

Good to hear Big Safari is on the case. They have the authority to overrule the verdict of our blogging friend close to the USMC.

Anyway, we might want some. If you have a bde/BG somewhere with a lot of emptiness around their operational area, say 100 km across, then keeping one or two, armed with Brimstones, on orbit might be a good way to stop all infiltration, except on foot perhaps.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 22, 2014 7:53 am

Checked the trivia: A Herc’s take-off run fully laden and the runway required by Watchkeeper are only 100m apart, so maybe even that bird can take a few of these, instead of just being a flying pair of binoculars?

mike
mike
March 22, 2014 7:59 am

Note the triple round rack.

That is 2 extra missiles, more ordinance is a good thing. Though obviously this is not a solution for tank plinking, but it could reduce the FJ and Apache need in lower intensity situations. Maybe even armed coastal patrol, would a brimstone be better at stopping a go fast than a hellfire?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 22, 2014 8:33 am
Andy
March 22, 2014 9:03 am

Can anyone tell me why we’re not putting Brimstone on Wildcat helicopters instead of going to the expense of developing a new missile, the LMM or FASGW-L? Also couldn’t Brimstone be used against small ships instead of FASGW-H? For a country that’s supposedly short of money we do seem to want to spend a lot developing new missiles when there are possibly already solutions out there.

Bill Smiley
Bill Smiley
March 22, 2014 9:45 am

Re your comment, Roger that big buddy!

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 22, 2014 9:52 am

Andy,

Does Wildcat have a sensor capable of looking out to beyond the operational range of Brimstone, and producing targeting quality resolution in a display the nautical Kevin can use, and is the training, comms and ROE delegation an issue? Things are not so simple.

MBDA are trying to re-market Brimstone as an anti-swarm small boat missile they call Sea Spear, but it is all a bit “meh” given that there are so many other variables such as sensors and ROE that they don’t control.

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 22, 2014 10:33 am

The line of sight calculation for Brimstone from Wildcat indicates about 5,000 feet as optimum. Which is a really shitty place to be for a slow platform going wocka wocka wocka and electronically standing out like the balls on a well endowed whippet. Just a thought.

Auto-rotate from that, Kevin

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 22, 2014 10:47 am

There are issues with brimstone and the maritime environment. The first has been discussed numerous times and involves the difficulty in marinising the missile for operations in a complex EM environment.
More importantly however is that it is neither fish nor fowl from a capability view point. It is an anti armour weapon designed to defeat armour. It is heavy at 48KG and requires a launcher attachment which weighs 50KG for a dual launcher or 90kg for a triple so all up weight for 4 Brimstone on 2 dual launchers is 300KG. This gives me a big punch but only out to 7.5 miles, the range is too short and flight profile not correct for use against an OPV or Corvette with a PDMS system and it is overkill for FIAC type craft.
By comparison LMM offers a range of 5 miles and weighs only 13KG, Wildcat should be able to carry 12 of these missiles and even then total weight will be only about 160KG plus any required attachments.
FASGW(H) is designed to combat OPV/Corvette type craft and will weigh 100-115 KG but it will have a range 3 times that of Brimstone, be optimised for a flight profile to combat Defences and use IR targeting as well as a data link.

@RT

Wildcat has an AESA radar and a sophisticated EOD turret.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 22, 2014 10:48 am

I did not know much about missiles but LMM and ANL are missiles anti-ships for helicopters.
LMM is a 15 kgs missile air-to-ground, anti-ship, air-to-air very cheap .
ANL is a 110 kgs missile which can neutralize boats range from 50 to 500 tonnes.

Brimstone is an air-launched ground attack for aircraft.

I think that i’m not wrong.

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 22, 2014 11:39 am

APATS,

Putting decent sensors onto a slow platform doesn’t stop it being an invitation to shoot back at it.

Lynx/wildcat might be a fast helicopter, but at 5,000 feet with helicopter signature it is going to stand out. Brimstone does not work at deck level, you know the radar mMW limitations and LoS as well as I do. It is a sitting duck. Brimstone only works as a concept when carried by something flying at Mach 1.5 and able to pop up and down in seconds. And even then, I still don’t think it works as a concept because you rely on Kevins who have not got a Scooby what is going on over the battlefield as it is 5 hours since they were briefed, xteen things have changed since then, the FAC can’t see the range they can, and about a dozen other constraints.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 22, 2014 11:55 am

@RT

Read my post, I am not advocating the use of Brimstone as a maritime missile to quote myself ” flight profile not correct”.
That is the point of FASGW(H) it can be launched outside 20NM from a helo that may only briefly exceed 100 feet and is a passive missile.

As for Brimstone as an anti armour weapon, it worked in Libya and as a concept I have no issues with it. Situational awareness tools have advanced massively in recent years. The missiles ability to take targeting data from sources other than the launch platform and geographic self destruct constraints etc make it very flexible combine that with modern data fusion from multiple sources over 3 environments and the “kevin” in his cockpit probably has a more up to date view of what is happening on the ground than anyone on the ground.

Martin
Editor
March 23, 2014 8:39 am

Nice, looks like we could well be keeping reaper then as the answer to the scavenger program. Just need Brimstone on Apache now and job done.

DantheMan
DantheMan
March 23, 2014 4:35 pm

What does brimstone buy you over Hellfire?

The Other Chris
March 23, 2014 7:23 pm
Reply to  DantheMan

The dual mode seeker is the billboard feature: Laser targeting for precision in a cluttered environment and millimetre radar for moving targets.

There’s also a “man in the loop” feature, allowing an operator to correct the course or even abort an attack after launch.

Enigma
Enigma
March 23, 2014 7:46 pm
Reply to  DantheMan

The ability to hang them on a fast jet

DantheMan
DantheMan
March 24, 2014 2:13 am
Reply to  Enigma

Enigma, I was thinking in a Reaper context…
Chris: Hellfire exists in both laser and radar guided versions (as you probably know). Brimstone contains both but is not obvious to me whether that actually produces a significant advantage i.e. one that MoD should pay for (export opportunities aside).

accattd
accattd
March 24, 2014 5:34 am
Reply to  DantheMan

Three for one?
Even in suoermarkets you only get two for one, on a good day.

Observer
Observer
March 24, 2014 1:36 pm
Reply to  DantheMan

Apparently 25% more range, more up to date electronics and most importantly new algorithms that allows you to ripple launch more of them into the air at the same time. The independent targeting is fairly important as UAVs tend to have only one designator, which means one at a time shots as opposed to a single pass with a mass launch on multiple targets. Same with fast air. Single pass, dump everything.

There is also more potential future growth in the Brimstone considering that Hellfire upgrades have been cancelled by the US in lieu of their next generation anti-armour missile… which knowing the US, is going to cost 4 billion or so in R&D, 4 years in delays and finally get cancelled when Congress sees the bill and gets a heart attack. The Brimstone is still fairly new and people are still looking for ways to upgrade it.

Brian Black
March 24, 2014 3:19 pm
Reply to  Martin

Or, with Brimstone on Reaper, stick it on Wildcat too, and who needs Apache? ;)

Andy
March 24, 2014 6:14 pm

Can anyone tell me why the UK is paying for the development of LMM (formerly FASGW-L) and FASGW-H when we’ve already got Brimstone which would seem to be able to do everything these two missiles are supposed to do?
Anyone would think the MoD is made of money?

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
March 25, 2014 12:24 pm
Reply to  Andy

LMM is a rebuild of a current weapons system. The production run of HVM was diverted into a build of LMM. As such the costs of that system are minimal.The LMM round is considerably cheaper than Brimstone as well so having a lo-end option to engage a limited target set…saving the depletion of Brimstone stocks is no bad thing.

FASGW-H is simply a response to approaching obsolescence of Skua which is a heavier and longer-ranged weapon than Brimstone.

The Other Chris
March 26, 2014 4:09 pm

A few more details in a follow up article from Flight. Note (with an acknowledging nod to existing discussion in the comments) mention from MBDA of maritime applications, in particular the direct mention of launching from an MPA:

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/mbda-details-brimstone-success-from-reaper-397423/

accattd
accattd
March 26, 2014 4:21 pm
Reply to  Steve Jones

Is Skua still in service? We are many years away from the -H ISD.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
March 26, 2014 10:40 pm
Reply to  accattd

Last I heard it was. From memory there was a service life extension run through the whole inventory only about 5yrs back. That should, you’d guess, take them up to 2020ish before any serious money needs spending trying to keep the capability viable…depending on how much time the individual rounds spend on airframes etc of course…not that you see many flying!.