A Rocket Renaissance

Over the last few years there has been a quiet revolution in ground launched long range rockets that has the potential to challenge existing thinking on Close Air Support, Attack Helicopters, Carrier Strike and Naval Gunfire Support/Land Attack.

To be clear, long range precision rockets are not a replacement for any of these but they do reduce the need.

We should not be thinking about firing GMLRS illumination rounds and a precision rocket cannot provide combat ISTAR like a fast jet but they can provide effective support for ground forces in contact with the enemy and long range interdiction at a greatly reduced cost and in response to enemy countermeasures like air defence systems.

They are rather unglamorous and lacking in expensive contracts though, which means they are not prioritised. The blinkered ‘not invented here’ theme is also strong, it is often assumed that Israeli, Brazilian, Russian and Turkish systems are unsuitable or incapable when nothing could be further from the truth.

In Service Systems

Although they have been in service for a long time the ‘Stalin’s Organ’ Katyusha and GRAD type unguided systems remain a potent weapon with the MLRS ‘Grid Square Removal Service’ achieving much notoriety in the Gulf War.

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For UK and US forces the modern standard has been the M270 MLRS, introduced in 1983.

It uses a 42km range 227mm diameter rocket which is wide enough to carry a useful cluster bomblet payload. The rockets are contained in a 6 round pod with the tracked armoured launcher vehicle capable of carrying two such pods. Reloading is carried out with an integral crane assembly.

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MLRS 03 - Image Plain Military
MLRS Loading (Image Credit – Plain Military)
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MLRS Loading (Image Credit - Plain Military)
MLRS Loading (Image Credit – Plain Military)
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Later developments included the longer range 610mm diameter ATACMS rocket and the HIMARS truck mounted system that carries a single pod of 6 rockets.

ATACMS is more of a short range semi ballistic missile and used for interdiction type missions, it was extensively used by US forces in Iraq in 2003 for destruction of Iraqi air defences in the initial stages of the operation. With a range of over 160km (M57 variant) it can carry either a 230kg (5oo lbs) unitary warhead or 274 M74 sub-munitions. The latest Block IVa version increases the range to in excess of 300km. A few days ago the US Army issued a $78 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the upgrade of the older Block 1 systems (shorter range and armed with sub-munitions) to the most up to date variant.

HIMARS is simply a higher mobility truck mounted version of the MLRS, transportable by C130, that carries a single 6 rocket pod.

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An ATACMS rocket was sled tested in 2005 with the BROACH warhead, the same as fitted to Storm Shadow.

Although the UK had an aspiration for ATACMS (Large Long Range Rocket) and a programme for a HIMARS equivalent called LIMAWS(R), neither came to fruition. The rocket version of LIMAWS was designed to equip the medium weight brigades and was very similar in concept to the US HIMARS, with a single launcher on a very lightweight Supacat HMT chassis that kept the whole system below 9 tonnes in order to allow sling loading by a Chinook.

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After the cluster munition ban rendered the sub munition loaded M26 rocket unusable the next major development was the 70km plus range M31 Guided Multiple Rocket launch System (GMLRS).

A number of changes included replacing the payload with a single 90kg blast fragmentation warhead, a dual mode fuze (point and proximity), longer range and a GPS/INS guidance system. In Iraq and Afghanistan it has proven its value thousands of times, earning the nickname the ’70km sniper’.

It is so accurate it was even used against a well, a well that was concealing the entrance to a weapons cache.

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The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.
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Future developments are likely to include an insensitive and selectable warhead, semi active laser (SAL) guidance and extended range

The latest version called GMLRS+, fitted with a new Aerojet motor, has demonstrated ranges in excess of 120km with the same high degree of accuracy.

In 2012 Lockheed Martin were awarded a $79m contract to develop the Alternative Warhead.

The Alternative Warhead is designed to engage the same target set and achieve the same area-effects as the former GMLRS submunition warhead, but without the lingering danger of unexploded ordnance. The Alternative Warhead is being developed by ATK under subcontract to Lockheed Martin.

The project has advanced steadily and last year a series of test firing were successfully completed.

There has also been some discussion on developing GMLRS as a carrier for the Small Diameter Bomb and SPEAR Capability 3 weapon. By using these weapons that are equipped with wing kit’s, the intention is to extend the range of the already long range GMLRS and provide additional guidance and warhead options. What makes this possible at a reasonable cost is the much reduced G forces experienced by rocket warheads compared to artillery. Engineering a precision guidance kit for a tube launched artillery shell is a considerable challenge.

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If successful, the M30A1 (Increment 3) Alternative Warhead will restore the area attack capability lost with the Ottawa Treaty.

GMLRS rockets cost approximately $110,000 and over 3,000 have been fired by the UK and USA in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The future is bright for in service rockets; extended range with minimum impact on logistics and support systems, insensitive and selectable yield warheads and a return to area effects.

These can be implemented with minimal additional costs over and above the unit cost of the rockets themselves.

M/GMLRS is a proven system with broad utility, continued investment in these incremental improvements should be prioritised.

Alternative Options

Although GMLRS is an accurate system, the 90kg (200 lbs) warhead is too large for some targets and does not deliver an efficient fragmentation effect for area targets. A smaller rocket/warhead would produce much greater fragmentation coverage for a given cost. They are also space inefficient for the carriage of 155mm cargo sub munitions such as the SmArt system.

For these reasons there might be a requirement for a smaller calibre rocket in both guided and unguided forms, or maybe larger ones and it is here that we have to cast the shopping net wider than the USA.


Roketsan of Turkey make 107mm, 122mm and 3oomm unguided rockets.

TR-122 rockets have been widely exported and have a range of between 21 and 40km with a choice of blast or blast fragmentation warheads with proximity fuzes. Roketsan has partnered with Burkan in the UAE for the joint production of 122mm and 107mm rockets. Turkey partnered with China to produce the TR-300 rocket and associated launch systems. This larger rocket has a maximum range of 100km with a single blast fragmentation warhead containing 26,000 steel balls weighing in at 150kg. Roketsan and the UAE are also developing a guided version and a new composite rocket container has also be developed.

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Roketsan TR-122[/tab] [tab title=”TR-300 1″]

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Avibras in Brazil make the ASTROS system that has also achieved some measure of export success. Rockets are available in three calibres; 127mm, 180m and 300mm. with ranges of 30, 35 and 60km’s respectively. An extended range 300mm variant is also available with a range of 90km, as is a precision guided version of the 300mm rocket called the AV-TM300

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It is probably not a surprise that Israel produces a range of guided and unguided rockets, the Israeli army has recently replaced a number of 155mm gun systems with guided rockets, reflecting its need for greater precision in urban areas.

The LAR-160 Light Artillery Rocket System from IMI is a 160mm rocket with a range of 45km, each pod containing 13 rockets. A GPS guided version called ACCULAR is available and all types can be mounted on armoured vehicles, trucks or trailers. The 306mm EXTRA has a maximum range of 150km with GPS/INS guidance and a 120kg payload that can be used unitary warheads or sub-munitions. An EXTRA pod contains 4 rockets in the same space as the 13 rocket LAR-160 pod.

IMI are also developing an air launched version of EXTRA with a smaller warhead which might make for an interesting comparison with Storm Shadow!

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LAR-160 3[/tab] [tab title=”LAR-160 2″]

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IAI (not IMI) make an ATACMS equivalent called LORA with a range of between 30km and 300km and a choice of warheads. It is also suitable for shipboard use and as can be seen from the images below, relatively compact and available in a demountable rack launcher.

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LORA 4[/tab] [tab title=”LORA 2″]

LORA Missile (Image Credit - Jim Jilitsky)
LORA Missile (Image Credit – Jim Jilitsky)
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IMI also produce a missile system called Delilah and what makes it really interesting is its flexibility;

  • Maximum range, 250km
  • FLIR/CCD seeker
  • Loitering capability
  • Control hand off between aircraft and ground control stations
  • Man in the loop final guidance
  • Launch platform diversity; fast jets, ships, helicopters or vehicles

It is special.

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Strictly speaking, Delilah is not a rocket in the strictest sense but I have included it here because when discussing future options later in the post its fits into the conversation.

Taiwan has for many years manufactured a similar range of rocket systems, again using a range of calibres; 117mm, 180mm and 227mm with a 15km, 30km and 40km range respectively. The 227mm rocket is the same as G/MLRS

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One of the means by which rocket manufacturers have sought to exploit the flexibility of their different calibre systems is to use multi calibre launch systems. Combining different types of rocket pods on a single launcher, using hermetically sealed pods, trainable maritime launchers and launch vehicles that range from armoured vehicles to trucks and trailers. There are a couple of different approaches to reloading, unlike MLRS with its integral loading mechanism, most of the other systems make use of dedicated loading vehicles equipped with the appropriate handling equipment for either individual rockets or rocket pods.

Two notable launch systems are from IMI and Jobaria Defense Systems.

The IMI Lynx is a modular launch system that can accept all the IMI rockets mentioned above but also MLRS and GRAD rockets that might still be in the inventories of ex Soviet Bloc countries. Taking the concept a step further IMI have developed the TRIGON system which is a naval variant of the 306mm 150km GPS/INS guided EXTRA rocket.

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With a very small potential military population the United Arab Emirates has combined a whole rocket battery into a single vehicle, the Jobaria Multi Cradle System.

Jobaria are a subsidiary of Tawazun Holdings and the rocket systems are those from Roketsan described above. An Oshkosh Heavy Equipment Tractor (HET) prime mover is used to tow a wide trailer containing 4 trainable launchers that each contain 3 pods of twenty RT-122 122mm rockets for a total of 240 rockets per vehicle, every one of which can be launched in under 2 minutes.

They are also planning to fit the 300mm Rokestan TR-300.

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Jobaria Cradle Launcher 3[/tab] [tab title=”Jobaria 2″]

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It is not as bonkers as it looks when you think about it, there is not much terrain for a small vehicle to exploit,the UAE has a small military where the output of every person must be maximised (the Jobaria has a crew of only 3), there is plenty of space for such a large vehicle to maneuver in, they don’t have to contend with EU road haulage regulations and potential enemies are unlikely to have sophisticated counter battery capabilities.

A Few Thoughts

Keeping faith with the 227mm G/MLRS system, particularly the M30 series rocket, seems like  a no brainer to me.

It has demonstrated its considerable qualities over a number of conflicts, has a funded (by the USA) development path to treaty compliant area effects and increased range that would be exploitable with zero development costs and only modest implementation and through life cost uplift.

The vehicles and support systems are bought and paid for and in the grand scheme of things don’t cost a great deal but this would not be a Think Defence post without thinking about extending capabilities and driving down support costs through increasing commonality.

Going Long

We can assume that the latest generation of GMLRS rockets will be able to reach 120km and the Guided EXTRA from IMI has a range of 150km.

The simple maps below show the GMLRS+ range advantage if we were able to go back in time to Iraq 2003 and Afghanistan 2013.

Tucked out of counter battery range, 30km inside the Kuwaiti border, a single GMLRS+ with meter class accuracy would have been able to hold the Al Faw peninsula, Basrah and all surrounding areas at threat.

Afghanistan, a single vehicle sitting inside Camp Bastion

Go back even further to Kosovo, Sierra Leone or the Falkland Islands and again, the utility of a 120km range precision weapon becomes obvious.

ATACMS can range out to 300km, the rockets cost less about a million dollars and can drop right into a GMLRS system with only minor modification. It is not as accurate as GMLRS or GMLRS+ but for the likely target set, probably not a critical factor. The same would apply for the IAI LORA and although not a simple GMLRS drop in like ATACMS it does offer a very simple launcher and ability to launch from ships.

Now try the same location in Kuwait, 30km inside the border, the red circle shows 300km.

Park one on the runway at Akrotiri and even the Syrian coastline hoves into range!

No doubt a 300km deep strike precision weapon would be a fantastic capability to possess at less than the cost of an F35 or FRES study, but in seeking to reach beyond traditional artillery range the Army would have to contend with a most implacable adversary, the light and dark blue, upon whose toes it would be treading. I know I keep saying this but I will say it again, a deep strike precision rocket would not completely replace an F35 or Typhoon armed with Brimstone, Storm Shadow or Paveway IV for many reasons, but it would displace those very expensive systems in many cases.

An ATACMS rocket cannot be posted through a window with a delayed fuze like a Paveway IV, attack a moving target with man in the loop control like a Brimstone or reach far inland like a submarine launched Tomahawk so it would be far from a replacement but think about the likely target sets, the pinprick effects of Paveway IV and Brimstone, how many can be carried and the cost of getting them to their launch points.

We might also reflect on the number of fast jets likely to be in service in the next decade or so and tot up the number of targets that can be destroyed in the most likely scenarios in any given time period, given the lack of cluster munitions and ability to deliver more than pin prick attacks using our new generation air delivered weapons.

Of course, 300km is much less than the combat radius of the F35B at 800 or so kilometres or the thousand kilometre plus range of a Tomahawk and obviously, the launcher needs to be in theatre to work, but think about some of the recent scenarios where ATACMS has been used and see it is a cheap (but shorter range) complement.

Chose another option, the IMI Delilah, and you get a slightly reduced maximum range of 250km with a smaller warhead but in return, man in the loop guidance, much better accuracy and my favourite of all, launch platform diversity. (this, by the way, is what you get when you don’t have competing services)

Going Short

Instead of striving for more range it is equally important to look at the means of reducing cost. Combining the 227mm GMLRS rocket with something like a 122mm rocket from Roketsan or the LAR 160mm from IMI will provide commanders with a smaller yield and cheaper option. The ACCULAR from IMI adds GPS/INS guidance to the 45km LAR-160 at a lower cost and with a smaller warhead than GMLRS.

It would be interesting to see a cost comparison between the 160mm ACCULAR and the 155mm Excalibur precision guided artillery shell from Raytheon which has been reported to cost $100,000 each and then evaluate differences in accuracy, support costs, equipment adaption costs and target effectiveness.

The problem with adopting LAR-160 or ACCULAR is that a new launcher would also be needed, which brings me on to the next section.

Launch Systems

One of the advantages of the IMI Lynx, the Roketsan, RT-2000 or Jobaria system is they can accept different rocket pods which gives the battery commander selectable effects and ranges rather than one size fits all.

It is a very flexible arrangement.

The MLRS/GMLRS launch system does allow the ATACMS rocket to be launched but nothing smaller than the 227mm GMLRS/MLRS rocket, for the simple reason there are no smaller rockets in the portfolio to launch.

The M993 Self propelled Launcher Loader vehicle is a longer wheelbase derivative of the Bradley armoured vehicle and as such, unique in British Army service. Although a handful have been converted into repair and recovery vehicles they are an anomaly and vehicle anomalies create support cost bulges.

A truck option is therefore attractive.

With longer rocket ranges and the much improved protection options available with modern logistics vehicles like the MAN SV the cost advantages of wheeled v tracks should give us a reason to look again at transporting our GMLRS capability.

As the Taiwanese RT-2000 Thunderbolt shows, truck mounting twin 227mm pod rocket pods is perfectly feasible.

This might also be an opportunity to look at how smaller rockets could be accommodated and look at the trade offs between self loading and using loading vehicles. I like the flexibility offered by the self loading system but it does add complexity to every launch vehicle.

All at Sea

A post Libya Janes Defence Weekly reported a Royal Navy lessons learned document in which the two major shortcomings were said to be a lack of precision land attack capability and organic unmanned ISR.

Janes quoted Colonel Pierson RM, the Deputy Director of NATO Operations in Libya;

It was evident that the Libya campaign showed the need for precision fires, [perhaps the Lockheed Martin] Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System (GMLRS), from the sea base, deep into enemy littoral territory.

The organic unmanned ISR seems to be being addressed with Scan Eagle and a number of development programmes for the longer term, so what about ‘precision fires from the sea base’?

As the kids say, it’s complicated!

The recent Type 26 news has not been wholly positive but a number of press reports have reported the selection of the BAE Mk 45 Mod 4 5″ gun to meet the Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) requirement and Mk41 Vertical Launch System.

The 62 calibre 36km range Mk45 Mod 4 was introduced by the US Navy 15 years ago but it is a very reliable and capable system that will be a significant improvement over the existing Mk8 Mod 1 4.5″ gun. If the Mk 45 is selected it will allow the Royal Navy to tap into a well funded system with wide range of ammunition natures including illumination, various high explosive and fragmentation and even the so called ‘shotgun round’ developed after the USS Cole incident. The feed drum can contain 20 conventional rounds, 10 extended length projectiles with 10 propellant charges or a mixture of the two. The drum can be emptied in under a minute and refilled whilst rounds are still being fired, but rate of fire would then depend on the configuration of the below deck machinery and the types of ammunition being used.

In the precision fires department, the story is not as good.

Despite an uplift over the 4.5″ system by some margin a force ashore will not have the same level of precision fire support from the sea as from a land base.

The Royal Navy cannot provide an equivalent to GMLRS and it is as simple as that.

Over a decade since Al Faw and nearly 5 years after Libya the Royal Navy has nothing in the pipeline to rectify this gap. Type 26 might offer precision fire capability from the 5″ gun but that is dependent on a lot of ifs, buts and maybes.

After spending $600m the US cancelled the Extended Range Guided Munition (Mk 171 EGRM)in 2008 but as Raytheon have matured the 155mm Excalibur they have decided to have another tentative look at the subject. BAE has demonstrated the multi-service standard guided projectile or MS-SGP which they claim this will provide high levels of accuracy out to 95km, comparable with the Oto Melara Vulcano system. The difference between the two is that the MS-SGP is rocket assisted whilst the Vulcano is a sub calibre and sabot design.

Both systems are likely to be very expensive and there are some interesting trade offs between the two designs but at least there will be a choice available to the Royal Navy if both offerings mature.

The next piece of the Type 26 jigsaw is a missile filled Mk 41 VLS.

It is here that I think the prospects for precision land attack are even weaker.

I have asked a number of times what the point of the Mk41 VLS was on a future Royal Navy frigate; Sea Ceptor will be in it’s own silo’s so what else? The general opinion is that it provides an option for Tomahawk and also whatever comes after Harpoon so it makes perfect sense to build in some flexibility. Hard to disagree in general terms with future proofing but this assumes a number of things.

First, that the UK will purchase the silo launched Tomahawk or a Mk41 integrated SCALP Naval.

Neither is certain.

It makes the national headlines when we buy a half dozen of the things and it is hard to see what a T26 launched Tomahawk would add on top of carrier strike and Storm Shadow on Typhoon. Are we likely to buy SCALP Naval and then go to the trouble of integrating it with Mk 41? There has been some vague talk of using the air launched Joint Strike Missile in the VLS role and the in development Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM) has been fired from a mk41. Whether this will eventually be able to attack land targets is not certain, currently, it is focussed on the long range anti shipping role.

A Type 26 Frigate could potentially be armed with a high volume short range land attack capability (5″) with potential for longer ranged precision, very long range land attack (Tomahawk) and long range anti shipping missiles, quite handy I think we can all agree.

But is this the right blend of range, accuracy, effect and cost?

I am left wondering if there is an alternative, perhaps more akin to Col Pierson’s idea for support to embarked forces ashore rather than the deep strike that seems more the mix being aimed for with the Type 26.

Lets just imagine the Type 26 has a large ‘missile deck’ like the Danish Absalon or Iver Huitfeldt but sized to accept 3 multi-function launch systems on either side with each able to take a full width G/MLRS fit (i.e. two pods)

Right at the minute it could be used for Harpoon (if that does not go out of service before Type 26 enters) and not much else, hence, a stupid idea.

But, think about future potential with the systems described above and one or two others.

Am going to step into fantasy fleet mode now

Step 1

Integrate GMLRS+ (or some equivalent like TRIGION/EXTRA that we know are naval vessel compatible)

This provides 72 rockets with a very high degree of accuracy and a range in excess of 120km.

Step 2

Buy into ATACMS or LORA and get the additional range, out to 300km.

This could provide 12 ATACMS or 24 LORA

Step 3

If you want a shorter range and smaller warhead, the LAR 160 ACCULAR provides such a capability and it is here that the number of available precision rounds really starts to rise. With the ability to double stack the 13 rocket pod, a 6 position deck could accommodate  312 rounds, every single one of them capable of travelling 45km and hitting a target with metre class accuracy.

Step 4

Buy into the delights of Delilah with her man in the loop data link, 250km range, flexible guidance system, loitering capability, high levels of accuracy and launch platform diversity. Packing density isn’t that high but with double stacking a total of 48 missiles could be carried.

We might even resurrect the MBDA Fireshadow Loitering Munition which would deliver 150km range with high levels of endurance and excellent packing density, 144 missiles if all positions were used.

Step 5

Not forgetting the anti ship requirement, the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile could make use of the same launch positions and mechanisms, it is only steel after all. NSM is focussed on the anti ship role and available right now but hang on a few more years and the Joint Strike Missile provides anti shipping AND data link enabled man in the loop land attack out to about 300km whilst maintaining the anti ship capabilities of the NSM. Should the UK ever equip its F35’s or future Maritime Patrol Aircraft (or MMA) with an anti ship missile it would make obvious sense to use the JSM and let the development costs be carried by others.

At 4 missiles per position in double stacked arrangement, a total of 24 could be carried

Step 6

Finally, if we absolutely had to have the ability to fire Tomahawk cruise missile then the same capsules as used in the Mk41 variant could be used in a box launcher, like the older Armoured Box Launcher.

Tomahawk is a long weapon and would need approximately 30 feet of space so depending upon design constraints each Tomahawk launch box might take 2 positions on the imaginary deck. With double stacking, that would still provide each Type 26 with the ability to fire 12, more than we fired during Operation Ellamy. I don’t for one second ignore the fact that the UK would be the only nation to use the box launch method and so present this as a tentative option but it has been done, the design exists.

Step 7

Mix and match

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Iver Huitfeldt Missile Deck
Iver Huitfeldt Missile Deck
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Polish NSM[/tab] [tab title=”Fire Shadow”]

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
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Tomahawk Armoured Box Launcher
Tomahawk Armoured Box Launcher
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Many have suggested that GMLRS and ATACMS might not be suitable for shipboard use because of corrosive exhaust, relative ship motion and EM assurance. All good points, we would not want the ships radar causing one to launch after all but assuming these are not insurmountable problems the commonality, cost and capability benefits would be significant.

In short, all the capability boxes are ticked with potential for multi service commonality and a broader spectrum of capability.

The Obligatory Container Option!

Of course, there has to be a container option!

Every single one of the systems shown above could be mounted inside a 20 ft intermodal container (with the exception of Tomahawk, that might need a 30ft) but why bother.

  • Easier to protect the contents from the weather
  • Easy to handle
  • Can be moved by most trucks and cranes
  • Can be fired from any ship or truck or even convenient patch of ground
  • The contents can be concealed from prying eyes
  • Systems can be shared between land and sea launch platforms

You might think I am going on about containers again but there are several advantages for very little disadvantage.

Container NSM
Container NSM

They don’t have to be fired from frigates either.

Any ship with a bit of flat deck can become a launch platform, imagine that.

Using a container and flat deck arrangement also offers potential for replenishment at sea, a heave compensated crane and moderate sea state is all that is needed.

Pulling it all Together

The guided rocket is here to stay, it is simply too effective to get rid of.

With some investment the UK could quite easily buy into the Alternative Warhead to return the wide area effect and with the GMLRS+, extend ranges to 120km.

In order to save money within the overall capability a move to a truck based launcher is starting to look increasingly attractive.

This would deliver significant capability improvements for not a great deal of money in the wider context of the UK’s defence budget.

At the same time and as part of the design and implementation of a truck mounted launch mechanism it might be a good point to investigate smaller and cheaper rockets like the IMI ACCULAR to improve flexibility and reduce cost.

Accounting for the benefits of reduced Close Air Support costs would be more difficult to quantify but the savings are definitely there.

So good, so easy.

If the Army wants to go large and look at implementing ATACMS or equivalent then a more intractable inter-service political problem arises.

A 300km ATACMS/LORA or 250Km Deliliah starts impinging on the Carrier Strike, Deep Strike and Interdiction roles currently delivered by the RAF and RN.

And yet there are compelling reasons for a longer range precision rocket.

These reasons become even more compelling if launching from the sea is included in the mix and if a common system like Delilah or JSM could be implemented across all three services it gets into the realm of ‘why are we not doing this’

Make the launch mechanism containerised and configured so that it can be used from any truck or ship and the expensive rounds can be transferred and shared between the services from a common pool that delivers reduced stockpiles and easier life-cycle management.

Major system commonality across all three services, ease of transport with a containerised system, reduction in stocks born of the ability to share across services and a raft of capability improvements across the board and in all spectrum’s of conflict.

It would need pragmatism and true jointery from all three services with cooperation from the MoD and industry.

Chances of success…

The square root of zero.

Anyway, a nice video to finish with



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January 11, 2015 9:53 pm

The CVS302 Hoplite-S by MBDA would also fill the light indirect fires niche. At 120 kg and roughly same proportions as ASRAAM, it features a RAM-jet for 160km range. Basic compatibility with CAMM-launchers given, it might give a path to both keep Sea Ceptor fresh and derive a light indirect fires capability.

January 11, 2015 10:52 pm

MLRS is a great weapon and I wish there was a good maritime version.
The main problem is the reload. it ether has to be done by a crane at port which would only mean you had 6 shots. Alternatively you would have to come up with a different way of loading and you would also need the room to store the replacement 6 shot magazines in an accessible way. All very difficult.

January 11, 2015 11:11 pm

I’m tagging this for a good read and viewing tomorrow. Looks like a brilliant and well put together post.

Jeremy M H
January 11, 2015 11:32 pm

Restoring area effect to the MLRS for the UK in a real, actual war is going to be as simple as asking the U.S. for rounds just like it is for everyone. So long as the major weapons producers have them and eveyone has the delivery systems it’s simply an international timeout until someone gets in a serious fight and needs them.

I don’t see that as needing to be a major focus of UK procurement.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 12, 2015 12:22 am

The US are also abandoning explosive cluster munitions. They haven’t bought any new DPICM payload MLRS for a long time and those they have must be reaching the end of their shelf lives soon. There is/was a programme to convert cluster warhead ATACMS to unitary warhead configuration. They are demilitarising, and converting to other uses 155mm DPICM projectiles.

The most interesting munition upgrade for MLRS was, IMHO, the P44 precision attack missile. Nothing ever came of it AFAIK.


January 12, 2015 1:28 am

I wrote a lot about this so far, and I disagree with your opinion on this:
“Keeping faith with the 227mm G/MLRS system, particularly the M30 series rocket, seems like a no brainer to me.”

Those countries which signed the cluster munitions ban have little reason to stick to the 227 mm calibre, and the tracked launcher vehicle is suboptimal as well.
GUMLRS is a rather inefficient missile due to its size. Its warhead weighs more than twice as much as a 155 mm HE, but has little additional effect (and IIRC a versatility issue regarding its fuze).

Such a weakness isn’t obvious in a typical occupation war scenario in which a patrol or outpost calls for fire while everywhere is perfect calmness. It’s a bigger deal in more intense scenarios.

January 12, 2015 5:55 am

Well done for a great article TD to start the new year.

Given the very small size of the UK FJ fleet and the fact that the RAF toils to even deploy a handful of aircraft on an enduring op I don’t see such a system as any form of competition for the FJ fleet. Rather a cost effective supplement.

I think a return to area attack capability will be most welcome as well. Its yet another capability the UK establishment was too willing to sacrifice for the Bono Agenda. I take Jeremy’s point that its a capability we could quickly regain but this would only be possible with US support. Its yet another nail in the coffin of UK sovereign operating capability.

I take SO’s points about the current system being suboptimal. However given the budget constraint’s and the fact that the current system works reasonably well and will benefit from future US lead developments I don’t see any point in changing it.

Some form of naval strike capability would be most welcome but that being said given the very small size of the Frigate fleet and the high cost of such vessell’s one would have to question the real utility of such a system.

Having a GBP 500 million frigate with a crew of 200 and annual running costs of GBP 20 million a year or more firing $100,000 missiles does not seem like a cost effective way to provide a replacement for close air support. Especially if we have to spend close to $1 billion to develop such a missile.

The Limey
The Limey
January 12, 2015 7:35 am

The Delilah system seems very impressive – but what I don’t understand is how Israel has been able to get it going on so many launch platforms. Given we frequently see here $100m+ per extra platform for an already in-service weapon, what is the IDF doing different?

January 12, 2015 8:39 am

MLRS was used by quite a lot of NATO armies, and most of UK’s came from the European production lines (both vehicles and rockets). UK also uses the AT2 anti-tank mine warhead (as does GE I think). Cluster munitions are not banned per se, it’s just that you can’t have a lot of small munitions in the same cluster, but you can have a small number of larger ones, hence AT2 still being in service.

The first problem is targeting in depth and in real time. Any bunch of idiots can attack fixed targets (that’s what air forces are for), but targets likely to move at any time are a very different matter, the acquisition – execute attack cycle time has to be in minutes, not forgetting confirming that the target is hostile. That said inside the FSCL basically belongs to the army and it’s not until they get beyond the RIPL that air forces can do what they want. The second problem is logistic, you need substantial logistic capability to support extensive use of MRLs.

The Other Chris
January 12, 2015 1:50 pm


You mention SPEAR capability 3 in relation to GMLRS future options.

The MBDA SPEAR offering for Capability 3 has been sized with a quad-packed Mk41 cell in mind as a surface launch variant (complete with CGI*) if that adds an additional option to your “All at sea” section?

*A CGI means it’s almost ready for service, right ;)

Jeremy M H
January 12, 2015 2:33 pm

A fair point but I do believe many of the old free flight rockets are still around and could still be used in a pinch. Sure they are old and might have a high dud rate but if any nation were to find itself in a real war where they can’t just do whatever they want in the air they may find use for such things again. The broader point was really that any ban on cluster munitions really only becomes effective when they are replaced by something better. So long as millions of the things exist in US, Russian and Chinese arsenals they aren’t really something that everyone else can’t quickly reequip with.


I think that the point about ATACMS being cost effective is something that should be challenged here. Your cost for a strike is not just the cost of the missile. You have to do a lot of things with it that you don’t with say fixed wing aircraft. In a permissive environment where you can leverage cheap, non-stealthy drones for targeting and don’t have to worry about being attacked yourself its great. Against a peer or near peer its not quite so simple I don’t think. In any environment where either your launcher or your cheap drone for targeting can be held at risk you start having to invest a lot of money to use ATACMS at all I would think.

Overall its a nice to have thing but I don’t see that it threatens to or can replace air power in most mission sets. It was used for such missions in GWII but keep in mind that the Air Forces had pretty much already rendered the Iraqi Air threat moot in the previous war and the following decade plus of enforcing no fly zones. ATACMS was able to advance to the launch area with little to no threat of coming under counter-battery fire. That won’t always be the case.

Again something nice to have but I don’t see how it moves anywhere near the top of an already crowded needs list for the UK.

January 12, 2015 2:42 pm

Cheap solid rocket motors and cheap precision technologies makes the whole thing much more viable. Area has been on its way out for a while, it will continue to exist for decades yet but precision is becoming ever more viable.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 12, 2015 3:26 pm


“I have asked a number of times what the point of the Mk41 VLS was on a future Royal Navy frigate; Sea Ceptor will be in it’s own silo’s so what else?”

It will give us commonality with the US and not only provide flex but also future US developed options. MBDA is also beginning to ensure that its missiles can fit into Mk41 silos to widen their sales appeal. Thos “24” cells can allow a T26 to tailor its mission load out to a specific threat or task, be that ASW (could buy ASROC rum 139-C off the shelf). Long range strike with TLAM, ASuW with LRASM or they are looking at NSM, believe JSM will initially be air launched only. In a high Air threat you could quad pack another 90 odd Sea Ceptor into the silos and use the Ship as a goal keeper for the HVU.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 12, 2015 3:36 pm

I cribbed this from here:


The first funding for the production of M30 GMLRS began in June 2003 with actual deliveries beginning in May 2004. The final purchase was contracted in December 2007.[50] The US canceled plans in December 2008 to buy additional M30 GMLRS rockets with submunitions and only buy M31 unitary warhead rockets after the deliveries of previously contracted M30 rockets with submunitions are completed in mid-2009.[51]

As of 2007, according to one military source, the US stockpiled 1,518 M30 rockets.[52] Each M30 rocket carries 404 M101 DPICM submunitions. Lockheed Martin produces the M30 GMLRS at a facility in Camden, Arkansas. BT Fuze Products (formerly Bulova Technologies), a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, produces the self-destruct fuze for the M101 DPICM submunition.[53]

The rate of unexploded ordnance (UXO) resulting from production qualification testing of M30 rockets and M101 DPICM submunitions conducted in November 2006 totaled 6.5% and the submunition dud rate averaged 1.5%.[54] The M30 rocket will be placed in the war reserve inventory and will require the approval of a combatant commander before they are used. After 2018, they can no longer be used.[55] In future production, the warhead containing DPICM will be replaced by an alternative non-cluster munition warhead.[56]

PS; The M30 shared the reduced DPICM payload of the later M28, 40km unguided rocket.

mark w
mark w
January 12, 2015 5:23 pm

Im surprised you didn’t mention the JUMPER missile in the Israeli section. http://www.iai.co.il/2013/16147-40145-en/IAI.aspx
A 63kg precision weapon which the manufacturer claims; The system, using the autonomous vertical launcher pack, enables to invest 90% of the budget in the effect rather than in platforms and personnel.
Helicopter deployable, 50km range and precision effect with no crew.
I would have thought that if you could “target” this (forgive me if this is the wrong word as I’m ex AMS not teeth arms) with the Commanders sight from Future Infantry Soldier system you bring massive overmatch and precision to the squad who I would have thought would rarely be beyond 50km from base.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 12, 2015 5:40 pm

M26 demilitarisation is well underway.


The M28 is actually the practice rocket, not the ER-MLRS as I stated above, so the M26A1 and M26A2 ER-MRLS (oddly the M26A1 replaced the A2 in production, using a different submunition) could be being demilled too. That seems likely as the MLRS shelf life is apparently only ten years.


However, it looks like they’re still making M26A2s as Greece recently asked for some. These have the very latest M101 submunition as used in the original M30 GMLRS. AFAIK this submunition was not used on any flavour of US M26A1/2 which used M85s or M77s respectively.


January 12, 2015 6:27 pm
All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 12, 2015 6:36 pm

I would assume that any VLS variant of NSM/JSM will become a third “variant”. It would make sense to gradually upgrade all NSM with JSM capabilities and have a VLS/conventional version.
Something along those lines with a range of 150NM, data link, man in the lopp, stealthy and with no need to go active scares me more than some card size mach 4 radar active non stealthy (in many aspects) theoretically very long ranged missile as those have huge targeting issues, are easily detected, extremely susceptible to modern soft and hard kill.

The Other Chris
January 12, 2015 7:25 pm

NSM/JSM can also skim lower as well…

January 12, 2015 7:46 pm

Good article TD

The main thing on my mind is the accuracy in future congested environments. It seems highly unlikely that GPS/INS guidance will be sufficient for the required levels of accuracy. Case in point would be Brimstone and SC3 with dual mode GPS/INS+RF seeker. Although in Herrick and Ellamy we’ve used GPS guided weapons, the choice seems always to be to have a terminal phase seeker in order to avoid “the busload of nuns” incident.

A new seeker probably needs to be factored into future GMLRS development, but probably reducing warhead size significantly as well. 15kg warhead and terminal phase seeker a la Brimstone gives good capability against all save reinforced buildings with scope for a significantly smaller rocket i.e. greater range or more rockets.

Targeting also needs to come into this as the most important part. Watchkeeper ability to geolocate targets and quickly disseminate the coordinates to the GMLRS battery should be a minimum. Ideally you’d also want this capability on tactical UAVs like Desert Hawk.

I do wonder whether its better to just buy more Reapers instead…

The Other Chris
January 12, 2015 7:48 pm

I can see NSM boxes ultimately replacing the GWS-60 boxes on the Daring-class.

EDIT: Still reckon MBDA SPEAR will make the Mk 41. Sea Ceptor is making a great go at the export market and there’s plenty of Mk 41’s out there being used for ESSM and/or SM-2 that would gain a lot by loading only a pair of cells with 8 mini cruise missiles.

January 12, 2015 7:58 pm

I think Kongsberg and the maker of Mk41 are actually partnering… what else can you fit in there that is ASuW and land-attack, and stealthy. So someone got a whiff of an opportunity?

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 12, 2015 8:49 pm

I see the US Navy has come up with the “distributed lethality” concept, that will put more long range weapons aboard USN surface ships. Well if they do the integration & their bulk buys bring the cost down, perhaps the RN could” tool up” cheaply.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 12, 2015 9:27 pm


I really fail to understand how a proven silo like MK41 that can take available and future missiles from the sole world Naval super power can be “jam 2mrow” yet your non stealthy design changes to take non maritime systems with a gloss over of all the real issues there would be is ignored.

Jeremy M H
January 12, 2015 9:58 pm


Sure, cost is hard to figure and it has worked in Afghanistan which has a very specific set of operational situations.

I just think everyone seems to be planning based on a future where the delivery system is never held at risk and there is an unbroken kill chain that can be as long as one likes to achieve the desired effect. Sure, you don’t need area weapons when you can precisely locate the targets and engage them. But what about in a GPS degraded environment? What happens if you can use a persistent drone to provide up the second targeting information because it got shot down or jammed? Yes, most of these weapons have INS backup, presuming that is good enough. But its still a very long chain when dealing with mobile targets and too many assumptions in planning seem to be rooted in one having dominance across the whole spectrum of operations.

That is what I liked about MLRS in the first place and what everyone is at risk of losing (depending on if the alternative warhead works out) if they really did bin all the cluster warheads. It has a short kill chain, it doesn’t demand 100% precise targeting information and it was effective even if you didn’t have dominance of every aspect of the battlefield. Hopefully the alternative warhead works out and restores this capability. But the idea of replacing fighters with scads of land based missiles fills me with much the same dread. It all works great in a permissive environment. But in one that is a bigger mess and more even there is something comforting about the fact that in a fighter the guy locating the target also is doing the shooting and can do so even if communications are degreaded, GPS is degraded and all the drones have been shot down.

And I am still not sold on the cost argument. One could do the math a dozen different ways to get the answer they wanted but ATACMs at $1 million is about the same price as a JASSM and about 20 times more expensive than a LJDAM. Its an expensive solution. FWIW I have the same scruples about those worried about legions of IRBM’s from China. They aren’t actually all that cheap and no one actually has all that many of them.

January 13, 2015 7:56 am

@ CW Anecdotally the SM blind rate found in trials bears little relation to what happens on real ground. Having tippy-toed around air delivered SM blinds hanging the bushes as well as lying around it’s a subject close to my heart!

@ TD The problem is that defining every target as a precision located point target is in the land or the fairies for the foreseeable future. Mostly battlefield targets are lots of small ones, and precisely locating each individual element, of even a militarily significant proportion of them, is not easy and resource intensive. In some cases a warhead carrying several SADARM type munitions will undoubtedly help. In others it would probably be better to use several semi-smart rockets (ie lower cost to get the CEP down to 25m or so), aim for a sensible are spread and use as many area effect sub-munitions as you legally can. It’s useful to note that the CEP for weapon locating radars is still on the high side, and realistically will be for a while and perhaps the foreseeable future. No doubt there are other acquisition systems with the same problem. Even with UAS you’ll need a lot to get complete coverage in reasonable time, and using them for tgt confirmation will take at least a bit of time, allowing time for tgt movement. Add to this recent ops in mostly fairly open terrain may have taught some false lessons about UAS.

January 13, 2015 8:58 am

Good point about open terrains.

Whether SMs are deliveredby air or rockets, they disperse for a search pattern and tall trees on both sides of a road become a problem – for them!

January 13, 2015 1:22 pm

Great article!
APATS mentioned a variety of Mk41 compatible missiles that the US hold in vast stocks but are they compatible with the T26 EM environment? If not , will we certify them? If not they are as much use as chocolate teapots. Similar goes for container launched systems off the back of a commercial barge to a 18000TEU container ship , just how far away from the primary fleets radar etc systems do they have to be before they are safe to use?
That’s me being negative finished with. Missile systems are a great complement to airborne delivery systems but as yet are not a complete replacement (an argument that goes back to the 1950’s IIRC :-) .
The general idea of having systems like the Delilah being able to be used by Air/Surface/Ship/Sub/Container based platforms is something to be aspired to and for a cash strapped world something to be aimed at ,which is probably why Israel made it that way , a couple of million taxpayers cant fund that much! (yes the US gives them funds but it is usually spent buying US made weapons).
A large aspect of all this though is, as with all weapons systems, making your potential OPFOR pay for a defence against it out of their also limited budget or them realising they cannot afford it and keeping the ‘peace’ officially . The cheaper we can make them spend their budget the better and by using cheaper common systems off cheaper launching platforms on LandSeaAir the better our money is spent.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 1:37 pm

@ Monkey

US missiles are marinised and accredited for use in a complex EW environment. In many cases such as an Arleigh Burke a far more complex and high powered radar environment than on a T26. Also maritime sensors and systems operate in very similar frequencies regardless of the nation as they are doing very similar jobs so it would be extremely easy to integrate these missiles.
Compare that with @TD totally non marinised systems that nobody has ever even though about getting wet with salt water, never mind firing from a platform moving in 3 dimensions or operate in a complex EW environment or indeed even how or where to fit them, remembering that just sticking angled metal structures on the upper deck of a warship has all sorts of knock on affects on RCS and soft kill. Now those are issues and not cheap ones to solve, especially when we would be doing it ourselves.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 1:57 pm


“I also made the point that it was a bit of design fantasy fleets but illustrated how they could be accommodated on something like the Absalon or Iver H, both that are reasonably stealthy designs with soft kill systems”

No you showed a space where their size allowed them to fit but once fitted extensive trials would have to be conducted on how that had affected everything I talked about. There is a huge difference between bolting something onto and integrating it with a warship.

January 13, 2015 2:01 pm

It would seem then that moving existing sea based systems to land use would be the easier direction as the existing designs are physically and electronically very robust all ready. It may be so that some existing land based systems are all ready inadvertently (or by design) can function safely at sea but it should up to the manufactures to show proof of such a claim and the FIXED cost to cross certify them as such before integrating them into a common platform missile system. I am all in favour of having US missiles at least ready to be used on our platforms as they hold the greatest stocks and largest manufacturing facilities in NATO, after all they have more VSL silos installed than the next twenty navies added together have.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 2:06 pm


So who has actually deployed the systems operationally?

“Would we accept LRASM or TLAM into service on a T26 fitted with Mk41 without the same level of testing?”

Well for starters both sytems will fit into a MK41 cell, both systems would be fully marinised, they would have zero impact on RCS etc etc. So yes it would be infinitely simpler.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 2:26 pm


Nobody has deployed LRASM but it will be functional and deployed before we consider buying it. I will trade zero T26 for any of those thing as they are all either already part of the fit or in service or being developed to be in naval service. So our commitment goes not further than buying a capability off the shelf and storing/maintaining/operating it.
Where as your “lower” aspirations involve us footing the bill to “marinise” systems with all the complications that involves. A drive for commonality is all well and good but not when it involves so many unknown costs and R&D.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 2:47 pm


I think I pointed out what it actually takes to truly marinise and integrate a system, not the blurb on some CGI or sales video. :)

The Other Chris
January 13, 2015 3:08 pm

South Korea are fitting Spike NLOS to their Wildcats, not sure they’ve been launched from the sea. Not to be confused with XM501 NLOS.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 3:12 pm


You overlook the fact that MK41 is built into the design and the 5 inch gun fulfils other roles from shot across the bow to non disabling fire to disabling fire during boarding as well as an antis surface capability. So we are going to have a Gun and a strike length silo anyway.
I do not think the Israelis have actually fielded either system at sea and we must remember that they have a very different and far more specialised mission that they conduct in a far more localised area.

The Other Chris
January 13, 2015 3:16 pm

I think everyone is.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 3:20 pm

The beauty of a silo system, you mean empty cells is that the “bad guys” do not know if they are empty or full or somewhere in between or which of the variety of available weapons are in the cells.
I used to be fascinated looking at the OPSTAT units of US Burkes and Ticos when the transferred into 6th Fleet the sheer variety of pay loads carried.

As for alternatives, for the first time almost ever we are actually going to invest in a silo system that allows flexibility and you already want an alternative :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 3:31 pm


Last ship i was on that had Exocet kept toilet rolls in 2 of the launchers. The type of box whether it is empty or full tells people what system it may or may not be loaded with. Silo Cells do not.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 13, 2015 3:43 pm

The reason for Mk41 on T26 is really very simple. In twenty years time, while the class is still in build, it is highly unlikely that tube-launched TLAM will still be in service, let alone manufacture. If we just hang on a second while the people who think we’re going to stick some bizarre blend of SSBN and SSN together as Successor quietly leave the room, we can continue.

That means that the ability to lob a 1000lb warhead 1000+km inland may be lost to the UK. MUFC is certainly looking at something like the VPM, but by no means a done deal and in any case only just coming on line. You’re also very limited in the salvo size you can lob from a boat and it compromises location (albeit briefly), which is why people have looked for a long time at the Mk41 for our surface combatants. Storm Shadow off F35 and/or Typhoon offer a related capability, but need the QE or an airbase to deliver and may require penetration of hostile airspace to achieve the same range . If, for example we wanted to slap a training camp for nasties in the ME, it would be possible with a boxful of TLAM from the on-station DD/FF, without having to deploy a carrier or move half a squadron of RAF.

The other reason is that it is the defacto interface specification for naval weapons and will remain so long into the future – it’s just the surface expression of the 21″ torpedo tube. That means every serious weapon system will have to consider Mk41 integration and in most cases will undertake it. It’s essentially future-proofing the ships weapons interface. Harpoon ain’t going to be forever and while the current assumption is that we need little short-range weapons in the littoral, you can’t help but notice that some nations are building larger and larger ships to work out in the deep oceans again. It would be somewhat short-sighted for us to omit a relatively straightforward option for fitting LRASM, just to discover we need it in the future. Hands up who thinks that fitting Sylver A50 silos to the T45 was the best option?

We are in danger here of the usual mistake of treating what should be complementary systems as “competing” – an either/or comparison, which should not be the case. The reason for that is almost entirely because the T23 doesn’t have them now, yet it doesn’t have a modular payload bay either and most seem to be in favour of that.

There’s nothing wrong with rocket based systems, but as APATS says, just bolting them on is non-trivial. He’s mentioned RCS and EMI/EMC, but you can also add ammunitioning routes, reload stowage, reload equipment clearances both spacial and added motion accelerations. Topside space when you’ve got to fit flightdecks, radars and other sensors, comms, RAS routes, uptakes / downtakes, lifesaving equipment (actually very demanding), boats, CIWS, SCG and so forth is very, very limited. You have to ensure clear arcs, efflux routes, radhaz zones etc do not restrict ships operations. I haven’t mentioned stability, RATTAM, separation from C2 and accommodation spaces yet either.

In comparison, the 8m plug in length you need to put three Mk41 units in, is pretty easy and also gives you the chance to use space forward where it’s difficult to put anything else other than weapons or fuel.

Years ago now, a “new-build” T23 concept to meet the FSC concept, the notorious “Project Brian” actually tried to include GMLRS. Unfortunately, it’s principal proponent forgot to consider those factors as well, which didn’t help the case. That said, neither did assuming that there would be no design work required (despite changing the principal dimensions, most of the ME systems) and maintaining the 1980s accommodation standard didn’t help either!

Rockets will have their place, but they’re not a like for like comparison with Mk41/TLAM either and nowhere near as easy to do as people think. Reasonably sure they have a ballistic trajectory as well, which may make them more vulnerable to interception, compared to a low-flying manoeuvring weapon.Comment…

January 13, 2015 3:43 pm

The adoption of the long Mk41 I think is a great leap forward in terms of flexibility based on mission . I recall a news programme once showing a complete suite of TLAM being launched from a Arliegh Burke , that was every cell ripple firing in the run up to the intervention in the Balkans neutralizing Serbian targets . The commentator confirmed it was to return to base for a reload. That was one expensive salvo !

January 13, 2015 3:59 pm

“Hands up who thinks that fitting Sylver A50 silos to the T45 was the best option?”

*raises his hand*

Don’t shoot me…

Personally, I can see the case for a mix, some A70s for the big rockets, A50s and progressively lower lengths for the smaller and smaller missiles. Not all cells need to be 7m in length, especially if it was storing small short ranged point defence missiles, and especially if it can recoup space that the longer boxes can’t use.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 4:14 pm


“Efflux routes, EMI, radiation hazards, CIWS arcs etc etc

How do those poor old Danes cope, seems to be comparable problems.”

Those poor old Danes use their missile deck for fully marinised and tested kit such as RIM-162 ESSM and harpoon though.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 4:22 pm


Yes NSM is and it is a bit of kit that I like. Whether we eventually replace harpoon with NSM or an updated JSM based version or LRASM is a decision that will have to be made but it is worth noting that LM are involved with the Norgies to look at a vertical launch variant based on the JSM tech.

January 13, 2015 4:26 pm

look at it with a historian’s long-term perspective, and with the technological lock-in phenomenon in mind.

When was the best time for the United States Army to drop the full power .30-6 Springfield cartridge in favour of a moderate power cartridge like the .276 Pedersen? The best time was in the early 30’s, when .276 was available and both the army and its ammunitions tocks actually rather small.
MacArthur et al whined about the effort required to change standards instead, and as a consequence the GI carried unnecessarily heavy ammo for rifles and machineguns till 1965.

The UK’s army is tiny right now and will likely not engage in major European-style warfare in the next few years. THIS is the time to change standards, not the time to whine about the costs of optimising standards.

The MLRS infrastructure is very inflexible and not versatile. AFAIK it doesn’t allow for brake rings around the rocket nose to reduce the minimum unguided firing range, for example.
It doesn’t allow for individual rocket reloading. This wasn’t required for WW3 counterbattery fires, but it would be very useful with a modern choice of warheads and guidances.
The tracked MRL is not protected enough for TOS Buratino-like missions, its tracks and traces on fields are compromising in face of modern SAR and GMTI radars, it cannot mimic an ordinary low-priority target truck, the launcher is bound to the vehicle platform and it’s inferior in road mobility and operation costs to a truck MRL.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 13, 2015 5:18 pm

Carrier strike is in no way undermined by having the ability to launch TLAM from T26 for the simple reason that the carrier is there to do much more than deliver 1000lb class weapons. The RAF did do Ellamy from the UK – in a very low threat environment where AIUI the aircraft usually did not need to penetrate Libyan airspace because for the most part, the target set was within SS range of the Med. If you think that’s a valid assumption to take forward to all circumstances, you’re entitled to do so.

The point about reloads is that you get relatively few of your rockets, particularly if its an MLRS style launcher – one reason why people are looking at a decent sized Mk41 complex, because you can’t and don’t RAS them. If you want to reload your MLRS launcher you’re going to need a stowage on the ship which will have to be clear of RAS routes, have a clear efflux discharge route etc etc. What that does is increase demand on a very congested area.

On efflux and CIWS arcs etc, read the post again – it’s about fitting that stuff into a very crowded topside space (unless you’re suggesting mounting it forward where it’s harder to mask from a signature PoV, subjetc to higher motions and most importantly likely to get goffered on a frequent basis..

You’re being somewhat inconsistent here, implying that the RN lives in a land of unlimited funds. I’d suggest that the RN is planning on using off the shelf kit throughout, enabled by the standard interface (mk41), whereas what you’re proposing is some possible but unproven economy of scale predicated on using army weapons that will require signifcant development which (we all know is cheap) to fit on ships. Reminds me of the 155mm debate where it was all about using army munitions and allowing joint munitions development (all highly laudable), but fell down because the pongoes use modular bag charges which are less safe in a shipboard environment and complicate the gun loading system. One might ask where is the land of funding plenty that allows the Army to take a weapons system which is competing with WAH64, potentially 155mm, possibly Reaper and in fairly small numbers and get it modified to work in a tri-service shipboard environment. Or alternatively start up an entirely new programme for procuring an off the shelf rocket system that might be significantly short of the RAF or Navy requirements.

It isn’t easy. If it was Brimstone would have been FASGW by now.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2015 5:51 pm


There would be major technical and cost concerns as well as political posturing.

January 13, 2015 6:25 pm

@TD: very reasonable. But I suspect that given the amount of room on the average warship right now, GMLRS and the like are going to be more important on land. Send a battery down South to park at MPA, ready to shower SADARM or area effect rockets anywhere over East Falkland :-)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 13, 2015 6:40 pm

Not dismissing it, merely pointing out that you’re talking about something that affects both the detail design of the weapon itself and the ship. Which makes it hard to do at this stage in the programme.

Latest number of Mk41 appears to be 24 cells, but that is essentially an 8m long plug in the fore-ends. Plenty of cells to do some third-world burning and retain an ASuW or ASW load (assuming SeaCeptor in different silos).

The thing about the Danes and their missile deck is that it was designed there from the off, to take two types of stanflex module. They’ve also got an interesting approach to machinery separation if you look where the uptakes are. I’d be a little suspicious of the survivability features on that ship. It’s all about space management relative to each other – how do you fit RAS routes, E&E routes and kit, uptakes sensors etc in?

They’ve designed their ship around the weapon deck but there’s less to balance in that design. You could do a weapons deck on the T26 but if you do it anywhere other than the foredeck then you’re competing with GT up and downtakes, the modular payload bay and the hangar. If you’re going to do a weapons deck, then you might as well do it based on a Mk41 and integrate these “other” systems with that.

That then becomes your actual cost trade-off, cos you’re not going to make the ship any smaller, it’s the relative trade-off between the support commonality vs the weapon modification costs, plus of course whatever requirement deficit (if there is one).

Or, you could bin ATACMS and use ground-launched TLAM (been done!). Bin GMLRS and use Reaper (or possibly AH64) for the army. If you’re feeling really radical, you could replace the 30-odd AS90 tubes we’re retaining for 127mm tubes with Vulcano. Which would require development! Being a tad facetious on that one given the impact on combined ground force logs!

Just making the point that “joint” is not necessarily spelled A-R-M-Y…….

January 13, 2015 9:43 pm

Well, I can see NaB’s point a bit. Some ships are designed from the onset for a certain capability, some are not, and trying to change horses in mid stream might not be the best of ideas.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 13, 2015 11:19 pm

The plug could go amidships without affecting performance, but it’s still in the area where you’re trying to deconflict things. The nice thing about the bow is that you can’t really put any manned spaces there (motions), its relatively narrow, but with lots of structure so strength needn’t be an issue and you can shape fuel bunkers around the silo demands – accepting cofferdams and Marpol 12A requirements.

Plus you get to see the shots from the bridge windows during live firings!

What’s not to like?

Which treaty are you thinking? MCTR or INF? Might dodge the first as existing weapon. NOt sure on the second – the way things are going that nice Mr Putin is going to abrogate it anyway!

January 14, 2015 8:02 am

The reasons for pods are logistic and manpower. Loading single rockets takes manpower, OK for third world armies not for first world and a launcher with a 3 person detachment. You can of course unload a part used pod. And as ATACMS shows you could have a choice of rocket calibres from the same pod envelope.

If you want single rockets use a 155mm RAP. If you want smaller rockets you could use several 155mm RAP, if you only wanted a few. The last thing an western army needs is a choice of different MRLs, unless you think a few of the Russian biggies might be useful.

January 14, 2015 8:25 am

Happy days “it is worth noting that LM are involved with the Norgies to look at a vertical launch variant based on the JSM tech.”
– F35 and Mk41 from one manufacturer
– ship and air-launched stealthy and well ranged Cruise missile from another
– software integration path well defined

The only downside is that some wings are produced in the UK and Rolls was awarded the honour to build a factory in the US.

But maybe going down this route would make the cutting of the JSF order less of an industrial problem? I think the repercussions from the cutting of the Israeli order were fairly immediate.

The Other Chris
January 14, 2015 11:20 am

USA has challenged Russia directly on INF in the last few weeks over a direct increase in deployment of nuclear armed cruise missiles, who’ve countered with NATO training non-nuclear nations on airframes capable of launching nuclear equipped cruise missiles in return.

I think specifically it’s an accusation with regards to the Polish acquisition of JASSM (as opposed to JASSM-ER, which may come later). JASSM is supposedly capable of interchanging warheads with TLAM which is capable of carrying a W84.

No idea if interchanging warheads was ever performed in practice between JASSM and TLAM, let alone the nuclear warhead.

January 14, 2015 5:37 pm

NAB and TD, what carrier strike ?

“I think you are naive if you think TLAM on T26 does not undermine, however small that mine might be, carrier strike.”

How does F35B constitute “carrier strike” ? I thought it could not carry Storm Shadow due to inner pylon weight limitations ? So a fairly short legged plane carrying a pair of NSM ? I think that is nicely comlemented by TacTom, either sniper mode from a dived SSN, or salvo by mode loosing all 24 MK41 cells of this mythical T26 focused on land attack.

What scenario / target set does GMLRS-Maritime enable us to deal with ? I am not sure what it gives, other than range and weight of salvo, over a 127mm gun. Now Navy TACMS was originally supposed to be developed alongside the Army version, and fits in the MK41, but the US Navy went all Tomahawk instead, they didnt see the need for a 300km fire support weapon. Longer range and bigger warhead than JSM / NSM familty for sure, but also easier to spot, and for some people, shoot down.

Oh and really APATS, were you filtering Brasso through bread again ? Exocet “boxes” came as a “round” of ammo, so the box was only empty if you had fired the missile that was previously in it, not sure why you would need to move the bog rolls to the empty box, buty hey, if it keeps the ratings busy…..

January 14, 2015 5:41 pm

“Loading single rockets takes manpower”

Not necessarily. The Czech rapid reloading 122 mm MRL which was able to feed individual rockets into the launcher simultaneously is an example.
You can separate between storage container and launch container, push individual rockets from the former into the latter. This way no MRL would have a sixpack with but one missile left loaded, waiting and pondering whether to reload a full sixpack or accept being irresponsive after the next shot.

MLRS wasn’t designed for individual reloading because it was limited to very heavy rockets only, and it wasn’t designed to accept brake rings because it was meant to do counterfire missions at long ranges only. These initial non-problems now restrict its versatility and have become suboptimal long since.

January 15, 2015 9:31 am

@ SO you can do all sorts of things, whether they are militarily sensible is another matter! Moving rockets from transport pods to firing pods is up there with one of the sillier ones. Double handling like that may be acceptable in old fashioned conscript armies, they are not a runner in regular armies at western costs.

The problem with rockets is their dispersion, crude retardation devices do not improve it – loss of stability increases dispersion.

Normal practice with dumb rockets is to fire the full load at one time. This was why they were invented – max simultaneous terminal effect. If you don’t want that use a gun.

April 29, 2015 3:46 pm

I am now converted. 2 x 6-shot MLRS pods on the foc’sle of a Type 23 where Harpoon sits. Sold. Let’s do it. Who says RA officers don’t have good ideas!

April 29, 2015 4:47 pm

My current boss is an RA half-colonel, and I’m in a targeting job. Conversations on the topic have been many and varied. I’m sold – are we having a whip-round?

April 30, 2015 7:11 am

I am not taking the piss!! Room to spare on a T23 and T45. Biggest problem will be the correct and accurate mensuration of the target coordinate – something that would have to be done either by front line forces using appropriate kit or back in the UK using existing capabilities, but hell, why not?

April 30, 2015 7:49 am

If the rocket was the type with the SDB, would the targeting be as big as a problem over the legacy system?

April 30, 2015 8:14 am

The difference is point mensuration, i.e. the ability to derive a truly accurate coordinate. No point just drawing a cross on a map – how does that point relate to altitude, to geodetic datum (e.g. WGS84), map accuracy, etc. If you want to put a round through a window TLAM style you need both time and a significant amount of resource to drop the point accurately, otherwise you will miss. It’s nothing to do with the weapon – that will fly quite happily to the coordinate you give it.

For land fires they will already have point mensuration capabilities at Brigade and Squadron level for precision attacks, and for troops in ‘contact’ they don’t actually need to do this – a rough ‘grid’ gets firepower in the air and quickly. Navy only has PM capability at the TLAM support cell. But as you say, getting the right ISTAR and other information is critical, not something Navy have yet evolved because we have no capability in this field anyway.

NGS is not precision, not even close. We can’t do it without a spotter and even then we put down one round, check it, then walk it to the correct aim point. For precision guided munitions you can’t do that, obviously, it has to be right first time.

Rocking and rolling at launch, nah, the warhead will acquire GPS anyway when in the air and fly to target.

April 30, 2015 8:37 am

Chillax there TD! Any form of precision fires is years away anyway and we will develop the capability in time – hardly a barrier. Plus a guided projectile is not yet certified for the Mk45 gun so no assurance whatsoever that we will even get a guided round. The nature of UK Joint Effects is such that for any preplanned engagement it has to be preapproved by an appropriate authority, and early on in a campaign that could be as high as Sec State so there’s plenty of time. For more reactive engagements, you accept a lesser quality of aimpoint to get fire in the air. Precision vs. reaction time, all part of targeting in it’s many and varied forms!

April 30, 2015 9:04 am



Yeah a few more tests to go but it looks promising and has a lot of potential, especially with our ever decreasing numbers of FJ.

Could we we take the GLSDB concept slightly further and and consider integrating the SPEAR 3 system on to the MLRS?

And in addition possibly look at the possibility of integrating either the SDB or SPEAR 3 onto an ASTER booster rocket for use from our surface vessels without the need to test the effects of the efflux and reduce other considerations such as handling and storage?

The Other Chris
April 30, 2015 9:18 am

Also need to consider factors such as whether the propellant and the charges are insensitive enough for shipboard storage/handling and whether the electronics can put up with multiple sources of high power radio frequencies.

April 30, 2015 10:07 am

Last comment seems to have been eaten by the spam monster.


It’s a very interesting concept that would allow us to reach out and touch people on a moderate defence budget.


But are not most modern systems insensitive enough? the USMC use HIMARS which needs to be transported on their amphibs and have no problems. The rounds are sealed in a container for transporting and use, so handling would be minimal (loading and unloading). If you combine known systems are you not massively reducing the need for testing etc? the SDB and SPEAR 3 will be cleared for the F35 so I am assuming they are compatible with shipboard hazards and storage etc the ASTER booster the same, but even if we use the GMLRS ammunition is it really going to be such a problem? the land environment is hardly bereft of RF hazards and the system is cleared for ship board transport.

For everyones consideration

EURONAVAL 2014 Show Daily – Raytheon Excalibur N5


The Other Chris
April 30, 2015 10:47 am


It depends on the purpose and profile of the rocket with its associated systems.

Storage is a little different to operation in that you haven’t powered up systems that are expecting ignition or detonation signals at that point.

April 30, 2015 10:54 am

Speaking to my resident SME, I would not put the current generation of GMLRS onboard ship. Some, erm, modifications required. Say no more!

It shouldn’t be hard to just put a Faraday cage around the weapons, surely? Seal them with a plastic liner and job done? Or am I in danger of applying common sense?

April 30, 2015 11:00 am

DN, all well and good, OTO Melara are still in the US contest to provide a round, as are BAE.


April 30, 2015 12:42 pm


“It would not be hugely costly”

= not free therefore not possible.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 30, 2015 12:50 pm

I think your list needs modifying to :

It should be possible
It is not an outrageous suggestion
It should enhance capability
It might be hugely costly
It probably won’t be done.

It’s a bit like the idea that Brimstone if put on a ship will fix everything. It’s the getting it on a ship that’s the issue. As TOC & TAS have already alluded to, there’s a complex RF environment to live in.

Then you’ve got the other transverse engineering issues that tend to get forgotten about. Are the munitions designed to survive a naval shock event? If not, how much to design, manufacture and qualify the modification? How does the munition respond to fire-loading? What is the RATTAM level required? Can the munition and/or the launcher be modified to achieve it? What is the reaction of the munition to long-duration exposure to high or low temperatures? What is its inspection periodicity? Can it be deployed on board a ship for 6 months plus? If not, how do you exchange / account for that?

The key would be the cost of modifications and qualification of the munition and to a much lower degree, the launcher, which “might” be hugely costly.

About a decade ago, someone associated with the T23 project proposed adding GMLRS as part of something called Project Brian. If you remember it, you’ll shudder. If you don’t know about it, you don’t need to.

The Other Chris
April 30, 2015 1:16 pm

By way of example, an early CubeSat/Nanosat experiment that one of our companies were providing consultation for wanted to use a mobile phone for communications. This was before the STRaND team cracked it.

A backup mode for the modem was a text parser reading commands sent by SMS. Whenever an SMS handshake (you know the sound if too near a speaker) one of the electrospray thrusters triggered cold.

Couldn’t be resolved in the student team’s semester so they had to revert to the standard CubeSat comms card.

April 30, 2015 3:28 pm

I’m not sure which fills me with more dread and foreboding – F35 or the fights, arguments and weapons-grade bickering every time a Regiment gets the chop! We might get a bit grumpy when ships go but by god it’s positively civilised by comparison!

From my own experience the insensitivity of the munition will be the greatest challenge, followed by the resilience of the munition in its container. Given that GMLRS is designed to be transported horizontally on a truck driven by a squaddie, the latter is probably less concerning. I’m not sure that GMLRS is IM compliant. Steel box, resilient mountings, salt-water sprays, Faraday protection and plastic liners – if it’s good enough for Harpoon…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 30, 2015 3:34 pm

You know Brimstone doesn’t cure everything and so do I. Unfortunately, we’re only a subset of people on here.

No-one’s over-complicating the challenge, just pointing out that those questions need answering and if necessary solutions need to be designed and manufactured.

On a couple of specifics – the RF environment. Someone pointed out up thread that they’re carried on vehicle decks on amphibs where the RF environment is very different from the weatherdecks. There will be a design solution for the munition / container, but it will need designing and qualifying.

Naval Shock is (wait for it) very different (in frequency, magnitude and duration) from being driven around on a vehicle. Again, it just means you have to do the design calcs, manufacture & test a changed version if required. Which costs money.

Fire-loading, RATTAM etc. The trouble with trying to equate a battlefield environment with a warship is that both the threat and disposition of the units tend to be different. If for example, a single unit on land is catastrophically damaged and goes up, the other units of the battery are usually dispersed away from it. The guys in the affected launcher may be toast, but the rest of the battery lives on. On a ship, it may take away primary structure – in which case water gets in and the ships sinks, or wave loading exceeds the remaining capacity of the ships hull and it sinks and you lose the entire unit. Now that’s likely to happen if you take a Sunburn (or similar) inboard, but you don’t want it happening if someone pops a few 20mm rounds your way for example. Or if the SF have spilt CIVGAS all over the deck and it’s caught fire etc. Or shock has fractured the solid prop motor and an electrical short (from an RF source) has caused a fire under the weapon. Insensitive munitions tend to be heavily dependent on the hazard identification element of their design case – it ain’t a one-size fits all badge.

On durations, I’d be astonished if the land users routinely left loaded pods in the launcher for that sort of time. I’d have expected them to be cycled back to ammo storage depots for controlled environment storage – but happy to be told I’m wrong. Point being, you have that option on land, not so afloat and deploying.

None of which makes it impossible to do. It just means you have to check the design intent and specification meets the different requirements. If it does, happy days. If it doesn’t, you have to design, manufacture, test and certify a new variant, which because it may require change right down to component-level may not be cheap.

The UK CE of LockMart once told me ten years ago that just qualifying a missile for a Mk41 (and vice versa) was a cost running into tens of £M. Great if have money (and can get a spend to save case past the Treasury). Not so great if you’re short of money and need to buy / modify a limited number of munitions for your warstocks. At that point, you depend on the manufacturer doing you a favour(!) based on expectations of other nations orders…..

The Other Chris
April 30, 2015 4:21 pm

Are we already on this path?

Modular motors, airframes, payloads, avionics, guidance and seekers in the MBDA/TCW family of LMM/Brimstone/CAMM/FASGW(H)/SPEAR that are unfolding?

Looking over the last few years we’ve accelerated our weapons development dramatically and could be looking at quite a rosy future already:

3nm – FASGW(L) ‘Martlet’
20nm – Brimstone II
45nm – Paveway IV (w/ glide kit, estimated average)
60-100nm – MBDA SPEAR / FASGW(H) ‘Sea Venom’
150nm – Joint Strike Missile
300nm – Storm Shadow
900nm – Tomahawk Block IV

VLS launch for Joint Strike Missile (Kongsberg mockup picture centre from 2014) could provide an alternative to Harpoon. Other than the booster and possible additional fold-out fins (also pictured) they cite near 100% commonality with the air launched weapon.

Add to the vertical launch systems planned for MBDA SPEAR and the approach we’re taking of developing to predominantly maritime environment restrictions (i.e. the most proscriptive environment) before transferring to land/air.

Instead of seeing GMLRS plonked on a boat, are we instead going to see cells of SPEAR packed on a T26, loaded onto a flatbed and dropped from Typhoon/F-35/Son-of-Taranis?

In a partially related context, interesting how close to MALD-V the MBDA SPEAR is in concept, even down to the same turbofan.

The Other Chris
April 30, 2015 4:25 pm


It’s always TAS’s fault… ;)