Harebrained Schemes

Picking up from the issues and trends, half a dozen sensible suggestions, or hare brained schemes, depending on your perspective!

Picking up from the issues and trends, half a dozen sensible suggestions, or harebrained schemes, depending on your perspective!


These suggestions have two underlying themes.

One, after a couple of decades of stabilisation and counter-insurgency operations in the Middle East the UK specifically, and NATO generally, need to get back into the peer conflict mindset.

Two, budgets are not getting any significantly larger so priority setting is important but more importantly, squeezing every last drop of value out of our significant investment in complex weapons by imaginative re-use, ruthless commonality and driving export sales.

It is on that basis that I have channelled my inner chimp!

ONE – Research Cost Drivers in Complex Weapon Integration

The first scheme is quite a modest one.

There are very good reasons why it costs £150 million or so to integrate Storm Shadow on Typhoon but no one should be ‘happy’ about it.

It is probably the case that the MoD knows full well what the cost drivers are for complex weapon integration on fixed wing and rotary aircraft but the current situation is not sustainable. It benefits neither industry nor the MoD, everyone loses. If the costs cannot be realistically compressed down whilst maintaining safety then fair enough, but a DSTL, industry and RAF/RN/Army project to investigate and develop means of integration cost reduction may well be a good investment.

The study should not only seek to understand the fundamental cost drivers but also propose solutions for cost reduction, without presupposing the results of such a study, if it results in an ‘invest to save’ option, then this would be an excellent joint MoD/industry investment, surely?

TWO – Address the Royal Navy Ant-Ship Missile Gap

It must be stressed that plans can change, and change quickly, but it currently looks like the Royal Navy is facing a capability gap from 2018 when Harpoon is withdrawn. This gap is to be filled with a new Anglo-French missile to replace Harpoon, Storm Shadow/SCALP and Exocet called FCASW.

This gap is to be eventually filled with a new Anglo-French missile to replace Harpoon, Storm Shadow/SCALP and Exocet called FCASW or SPEAR Capability 5. I suspect that there may be some divergence between the RAF and RN at the moment but the concept of a single missile to replace SCALP, Storm Shadow, Exocet and Harpoon does sound like a worthwhile project, driving commonality across service lines is never a bad thing as we have seen ably demonstrated by CAMM.

All good, but current indications are that this will not be in service until 2030-35, with Assessment Phase contracts to be awarded in 2020. Ten to fifteen years from concept to service seems to be about the average for complex weapons of this nature. So if it assessed that this gap can be mitigated by other means of sinking enemy shipping such as Wildcat and Sea Venom, Astute and Spearfish, naval gunfire (possibly with precision natures) and of course, F-35B with Paveway IV and SPEAR Cap 3 from the early half of the 2020’s then skip forward to scheme number 3.

If the gap is unacceptable in the context of an increasing likelihood of peer conflict then there is no other option than either to cancel FCASW, descope the anti-ship element or pursue an interim solution.

This is where it gets very complicated indeed.

Although an anti-ship Tomahawk remains an outside option there are only three missiles worth considering as an interim, Harpoon Block II+ER, NSM and LRASM.

All three are involved in some way with US Navy competitions and NSM is also in service with other nations.

Harpoon Block II+ER has an active radar seeker with mid-course GPS guidance and a data link, it is still quite large, has a range of 240km and utility against land targets. NSM is smaller than Harpoon in a body that makes extensive use of composites but has a shorter range of 200km. Instead of active radar guidance, NSM uses an infra-red seeker with target recognition/database.

Block II+ER can be dropped directly into existing Harpoon launch and fire control systems and is planned to be integrated with the P-8A Poseidon in 2017. For ease of integration with the Type 23 Frigate and Type 45 Destroyer, this scores highly, and the Poseidon integration is an extra bonus should the UK ever aspire to get back into the anti-ship MPA business.

NSM scores highly in target discrimination, it is a very intelligent system designed to approach targets with a high degree of ‘stealth’ and the precise aim point selection delivered by the imaging seeker allows the missile to use a smaller warhead. The Joint Strike Missile (derived from NSM) will also be a baseline F-35 weapon should the UK wish to purchase it for the RAF/FAA F-35 fleet. Kongsberg argue that their seeker technology makes the NSM much more usable with real world ‘Rules of Engagement’ constraints, they may have a point; there is not much point in an interim weapon if you can never use it. The lower weight of NSM might also be easier to accommodate on new ship designs.

The final option is the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), a large missile derived from JASSM-ER with 450kg warhead and 900+ km range, significantly longer than either Harpoon or NSM

The OASuW Increment 2 competition will see LRASM compete with NSM. Tomahawk and Block II+ER so although it is in limited initial production for ASuW Increment 1, full production is not a certainty.

[tabs] [tab title=”LRASM Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”NSM Video”]

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LRASM is very advanced but there is a slight crimp, although plans exist for a box launcher, it is uncertain whether it will enter service, Mk41 VLS and air launched have only been demonstrated at this stage. Why is this important, simply because the Royal Navy will have no Mk41 VLS equipped vessels until Type 26 comes into service. LRASM is also expected to come into service as part of OASuW Increment 2 in 2024, a mere 6 years away from FCASW ISD and 6 years after Harpoon goes out of service, timing becomes an issue, with a weapon in service for 6 years before its planned replacement, the rationale for FCASW becomes adversely impacted. Looking into the crystal ball, LRASM is likely to be very expensive and put pressure on FCASW from both a timing and capability perspective, I can’t, therefore, see it as an interim solution.

If we took the more industrial politically expedient option of Harpoon Block II+ER or NSM, both are available immediately (or near immediately), but their launch method becomes both a blessing and an added complication.

NSM/Harpoon use inclined box launchers but in current images of Type 26, there does not appear to be a great deal of space for such. Harpoon cannot be fired from a Mk41, and if we want NSM to be so, we would have to pay, not quite the ideal for an interim weapon. Current plans do not seem to have anything filling Type 26 Mk41 VLS either if we accept that LRASM would mean the effective cancellation of FCASW unless there was an urgent operational requirement before FCASW comes into service, that leaves TLAM or ASROC, again, plans for either seem more aspirational than realistic.

This leads to the unavoidable conclusion that fitting Mk41 VLS to Type 26 is an exercise in hoping for a UOR or holding out for FCASW being Mk41 VLS compatible.

Some might then suggest why should the UK bother fitting the Mk41 at all?

This must be resisted as it would be a very short-sighted and foolish decision. With final design freeze approaching for Type 26, this is not an issue than can be deferred for long either

To achieve maximum flexibility, Type 26 needs to absolutely retain Mk41, or at the very least, an ability to do so in the future, but it also needs to be redesigned to accommodate an inclined box/canister launcher for either NSM or Harpoon. Type 31 likewise. This gives the Royal Navy short to medium term options and choices whilst retaining a path to future systems such as FCASW or others such as TLAM or ASROC.

If no funding is available for the missile then retaining the ability to field a choice of missiles is important, flexibility is never a bad choice.

Quite simply, this is an appeal to retain the ability to make a choice should the need arise, not be funnelled into a space where no choice exists.

THREE – Battlefield Anti-Tank Overwatch

Dr Phillip Karber from the Potomac Foundation has written an extremely illuminating document called Lessons Learned from the Russo-Ukrainian War, sponsored by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory & U.S. Army Capabilities Center (ARCIC). This is a very interesting document but in many ways it simply reinforces was what known in the Cold War, and perhaps, slightly forgotten about during the last couple of decades worth of stabilisation and counter-insurgency operations in the Middle East. The paper reinforces or describes four key themes from Ukraine; Ubiquitous Presence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Increased Lethality of Indirect Fire, ATGM’s and Armours Counter-Revolution, and the Declining Survivability of Light Infantry Vehicles.

These are lessons that were already well accepted and other ‘lessons learned’ type documents draw similar conclusions. It is sheer folly to think dismounted Javelin teams and open-topped vehicles are in any way survivable in such an environment, although as with all things, exceptions are aplenty.

In a territorial defence scenario against Russia or her proxies, NATO will be outnumbered in most types of armoured vehicle and subject to significantly increased indirect fire density so this proposal seeks to increase lethality against armoured vehicles using complex weapons and improve the survivability of those delivering that increased lethality.

This proposal is in three steps, or increments.

Increment 1

The easiest and quickest way to start addressing the issue is to put Javelin on a vehicle remote weapon mount. As far back as 2010, Javelin was successfully test fired from a CROWS system and since has been fired from a number of vehicles on similar remote mounts.

[tabs] [tab title=”Javelin TAPV”]

[/tab] [tab title=”Javelin Fixed Launcher (Boxer)”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

This is nothing especially complex, Javelin is in service and needs no modifications to be fired from such mounts. Fitted to Ajax, Warrior and even MIV/MRV-P, the simple idea is to distribute ATGW across multiple launch vehicles. Downsides are limited capacity and reloading has to be conducted outside the protection of the armoured vehicle, but it is better than nothing and would cost very little, especially in the context of the wider defence budget.

Increment 1 should also include a dismounted option for Brimstone.

Brimstone tripod

Hold on, didn’t you say Increment 1 was about improving survivability?

Well, yes, but it is also a means by which I can start the conversation about platform diversity, driving commonality across the services and increasing production volumes that deliver real cost savings, so have decided to include it with Increment 1.

There are environments where the range of Brimstone (12km, roughly triple that of Javelin) can be exploited. Anti-shipping in littoral defence, desert and mountainous operations for example. For special forces, it would allow long-range interdiction against high-value targets like Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) or communications systems. Dismounted and tripod launched Hellfire (RBS 17) is used in the coastal defence role by Sweden and Norway, am sure the Royal Marines and even the Falklands Island Defence Force could find a role for such a dismounted Brimstone launcher.

Brimstone is not a small or light missile, at 50kg it is simply not man portable, but it is easily transported using the kind of light and all-terrain vehicles commonly used by light forces, and that is the point, providing these forces with a very long range direct fire capability.

Increment 2

Increment 2 seeks improvements over Increment 1 in three key areas; survivability, capacity and focus.

One such earlier combination was the CVR(T) Striker with Swingfire missiles. Fire from under armour, defilade positions and even from behind buildings, Swingfire could even be controlled by a remote control some 50m from the vehicle. Its job was to provide overwatch for forward deployed recce forces in other CVR(T)’s. If they encountered an enemy tank force they would be far too busy getting the f**k out of dodge to return any fire and so their big brother, Striker, would do the firing or them. Essentially, Striker was there to provide anti-tank cover in the absence of friendly main battle tanks.

We also fielded a Spartan CVR(T) with Milan Compact Turret and the FV438, the latter employed in a different manner to Striker but still relevant to the discussion.

[tabs] [tab title=”Striker”]

FV 102 Striker CVR(T)

[/tab] [tab title=”Swingfire Video 1″]

[/tab] [tab title=”CVR(T) Striker Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”Milan Compact Turret”]

CVR(T) with Milan Compact Turret

[/tab] [tab title=”Swingfire FV438 and Striker”]

Low Profile Launcher

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Striker saw action in 1991 and 2003 and despite extremely positive post-conflict operational analysis, was withdrawn without replacement.

Whether the overwatch for lighter vehicles concept remains valid in a world with Ajax is open for discussion but one thing is certain, we need a greater anti-tank capability and wrapping Brimstone in an armoured shell is quicker and cheaper than adding additional main battle tanks. Another advantage of using dedicated vehicles is that of focus, instead of diffusing Javelin ATGW capacity over multiple vehicles it concentrates a similar capability in a dedicated armoured vehicle to improve protection and the ability to fire multiple missiles under armour. This also means the vehicle and crew can focus on the task, not do it as part of everything else they might be doing.

Moving to a dedicated vehicle allows the missile to be heavier and the obvious choice is Brimstone 2.

Brimstone 2 has enough punch to deal with any armour, ERA equipped or not. It also has more range than Javelin, at least triple, even in the ground launched role. That additional range may not always be exploitable in all terrain but in others, may well be. By using Brimstone 2 we also gain the benefits of dual-mode guidance, it can be guided to target using an onboard or offboard laser designator or salvo fired into a kill box where the millimetric radar and target recognition does the rest. The ability to quickly salvo fire against multiple targets would be a big multiplier and once fired, the vehicle can quickly move away to cover.

There are a number of base vehicle and launcher options that come immediately to mind.

First would simply be to reinstate the previously cancelled work on the SV/Ajax programme. Instead of the 38 Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Overwatch variants of Ajax (called Ares) being only a transport platform for dismounted Javelin teams, the base vehicles could be modified to carry a Brimstone launcher.

The easiest method is to just roof mount a box launcher on an MICV/APC type vehicle as these images of current Chinese and older US vehicles show.

Box Launcher ATGW

This is the simplest means of improving protection, carried capacity and the ability to salvo fire ATGW from under armour.

Unless the missile canisters are armoured, the very expensive missiles become vulnerable to artillery fragments, small arms and automatic weapons. A great big box launcher on the top of a vehicle like Ares also says ‘look at me’. Given their battlefield utility, they will be high-value targets and so whilst this method is probably the cheapest, there are negative issues.

The seventies era Strike and FV438 concepts approached this visibility problem by concealing the launch mechanism within the vehicle so that its profile was no greater than that of a standard Spartan or FV432. It never ceases to amaze me how our elders knew quite a bit about this stuff! There are also a number of more contemporary examples of vehicle mounted launch systems that use elevating mechanisms rather than inclining ones as with Striker and FV438, again, these satisfy the basic requirement of not making the vehicle conspicuous. The current Stryker TOW vehicle uses an elevating turret that contains two missiles that also provides a traverse capability. Lockheed Martin recently proposed the Long Range Surveillance and Attack Vehicle (LRSAV) that integrated Hellfire and DAGR guided 70mm rockets onto the same vehicle, each one being used for the most appropriate target.

[tabs] [tab title=”TOW”]

Stryker TOW

[/tab] [tab title=”Striker TOW Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”LRSAV Video 1″]

[/tab] [tab title=”LRSAV Video 2″]

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The LRASM is an interesting idea and it is easy to see similar with Brimstone and Martlet for varied target effects and guidance methods.

Another concept from the past that I don’t think is as crazy as it first looks is from Germany.

Elevating ATGW

The Germans proposed various combinations of HOT, Milan and TRIGAT missiles on Marder and Leopard 1 base vehicles but the concept was broadly the same.

Using cover provided by trees, buildings and undulating ground, the vehicle would use its mast-mounted observation system and attack oncoming vehicles using up to 16 missiles, also on the same mast. The assumption made was that Attack Helicopters might not be all that survivable on a modern battlefield and to exploit the long range of emerging missile technology on European terrain, elevation was needed.

This is not an outlandish assumption and it might be worth dusting the idea off and conducting some scenario analysis to test the concept.

Regardless of what specific method of mounting direct fire ATGW on an armoured vehicle is chosen, getting multiple missiles onto a dedicated vehicle with a dedicated crew would provide a serious uplift in lethality.

Increment 3

If Increment 2 is about providing a dedicated direct fire anti-tank guided weapon carrier, Increment 3 is pretty much the same thing but with a non-line of sight missile.

If one looks at the original concept of employment for the Israeli Tamuz or Spike-NLOS, it was for use in the defence, blunting enemy armoured breakthroughs by massing accurate indirect fires from a protected platform that looked no different from many other vehicles on the battlefield. It is a great concept, again, working from the assumption that rotary or fixed wing support might not always be forthcoming or timely.

There are also some comparable systems that never made it manufacture; EFOG-M , NLOS and Polyphem for example. EFOG-M had a range of 15km, Polyphem, 60km. NLOS and Jumper were more about precision artillery than anti-tank but both concepts used a vertical launch box that could be carried by many vehicles and simply ground dumped as needed. Connected to a network, control could be initiated from the demanding unit, on call precision fire,

[tabs] [tab title=”Polyphem”]


[/tab] [tab title=”FOG-M”]

[/tab] [tab title=”NLOS”]


[/tab] [tab title=”NLOS Video”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

SPIKE-NLOS, or Exactor, has a range of 25-30km, real-time data link flight control and a multi-effect warhead, with options for dedicated anti-tank warhead should it be required, so yes. If the datalink is robust against concerted jamming then there is no need for a cable, fibre or otherwise, but a fibre spooling option for SPIKE-NLOS might be an interesting option to pursue. With a range of 25-30km range, SPIKE-NLOS would be ideal but it is well within the indirect fire danger zone and so an armoured platform, especially with high levels of protection against top attack submunitions, would seem to be prudent.

Increment 3 is, therefore, an armoured vehicle for our Exactor missile, instead of the trailer.


There are any number of potential vehicle choices for Increment 3 but the contributory factors remain similar to increment 2, protection, the number of missiles that can be fired simultaneously and carried, reloading mechanism and whether it is conspicuous or not. The Israeli armed forces used a surplus MBT chassis, perhaps that might also be an option for our surplus Challenger 2’s?

Taken together, these proposals are intended to exploit what we already have in service and make an armoured battlegroup much more powerful, simple.

FOUR – MOAR Rockets!

The fourth harebrained scheme is to exploit ande expand the capabilities of our rocket artillery, again, split into three increments.

Increment 1

Increment 1 is a pretty simple suggestion, go shopping.

First, Buy into the Alternative Warhead Programme that re-introduces area effects lost with the withdrawal of MLRS submunition rockets and second, purchase some large anti-tank submunitions, the German G-SMArt for example.

[tabs] [tab title=”Alternative Warhead”]

[/tab] [tab title=”G-SMArt Image 1″]


[/tab] [tab title=”G-SMArt Image 2″]


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Both these can be fitted to our existing stocks of M31 GMLRS rockets, which is the main point. These would broaden the utility of our existing missile stocks for relatively small investments.

Increment 2

Where Increment 1 is mainly about leveraging investment in existing systems, Increment 2 looks at introducing a new one.

The larger and longer range ATACMS has long been on the Royal Artillery shopping list.

ATACMS is more of a short range semi-ballistic missile and used for deep interdiction missions, it was extensively used by US forces in Iraq in 2003 for the destruction of Iraqi air defences in the initial stages of the operation. The latest Block IVa version has a range of in excess of 300km. The US DoD started investigations a few years ago into a smaller long-range rocket called Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF). The intent was to retain the 300km range of ATACMS but in a smaller package, specifically, with two rockets per LPC. Warhead size was intended to be the same as GMLRS. Both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have proposed designs, the Raytheon version pictured below.


Think of LRPF as a longer range GMLRS or a smaller warhead ATACMS, seeker options remain to be confirmed, and importantly, whether the maximum range will be limited to 300km, or pushed out to Iskander like INF Treat busting 500km. Raytheon has confirmed their design has 500km range.With a unitary warhead or the G-SMArt, this would provide UK forces with a very long range interdiction capability and one that could also be used in SEAD/DEAD missions in conjunction with F-35 and Typhoon with Storm Shadow. The US DoD is stumping up the development funding and the UK has little or no industrial capability in this area, simply buying from the winner would make more sense than anything else.

So, increment 2 provides the UK with a new and long range guided rocket.

Increment 3

Increment 3 takes a step back from the notion that everything has to be precision guided so arguably not a complex weapon but included here anyway. The benefit of rockets has traditionally been the ability to quickly mass fires, and mass those fires cheaply, GMLRS costs about £70k each.

We know that operational expenditure rates are always higher that we think, we know that area fires can be just as effective as precision fires and we know that cost is always a factor. Not all operations will be suitable for unguided rockets, this is acknowledged, but others, they will be. 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.

For these reasons, there might be a good argument for a mix of rocket calibres, and it is here that we have to cast the shopping net wider than the USA.

Roketsan of Turkey manufacture 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 a blast-fragmentation warhead 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. 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.

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 submunitions. An EXTRA pod contains 4 rockets in the same space as the 13 rocket LAR-160 pod. 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.

Our allies can provide a diverse range of IM compliant rockets that deliver a range of effects that avoids us having a one size fits all capability.

[tabs] [tab title=”TR-122″]

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

Rokestsan TR-300 1[/tab] [tab title=”TR-300 Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”LAR-160 1″]

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

LAR-160 1

[/tab] [tab title=”LAR-160 Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”ACCULAR”]

[/tab] [tab title=”RT-2000″]

RT-2000 2

[/tab] [tab title=”RT-2000 Video”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

There are many choices, diversity of choice and diversity of effect is a good thing.

FIVE – Flat Rack Universal Launch Platform

I know this is the one you have all been waiting for :)

The proposal is another simple one, it doesn’t require complex and expensive systems to be purchased but it does require a change in thinking. Instead of integrating high-value complex weapons on low-value vehicles that look exactly like high-value targets, the idea is to create a universal self-contained launch platform that is compatible with most of our complex weapons.

This allows them to be stored, transported and operated using commonly available equipment, swapped between extremely common vehicles and if necessary, made to look like extremely common containers or swap bodies.

The starting point is to look at constraining dimensions and the best place to start is, obviously, the 20ft ISO flat rack format. With forklift pockets and twistlock corner fittings it can be easily handling by in service and common civilian handling equipment.

20ft ISO platform

The corner fittings allow the platform to be secured on trucks, trailers and deck fittings. Extension posts and ends can also be secured using the corner fittings which allows the flatrack to be stacked or enclosed with appropriate doors or coverings. A hooklift attachment can also be easily fitted to allow DROPS and EPLS type vehicles to lift the platform although the speed of operation of a hooklift is not a particularly important factor for this application. An alternative to the hooklift fitting would be extendable legs as fitted to European swapbody containers.

Container options

This establishes the 20ft ISO flat rack as the baseline physical platform. On to this platform can be added corner posts, swapbody legs and curtain sides as required. On to this platform would be added a traverse/elevation system, electrical and control interface and any special to type fittings or electronics.

For CAMM, ASTER, NSM/Harpoon, Storm Shadow, Brimstone and EXACTOR, elevation to the vertical only may be sufficient but for any kind of rocket, guided or not, it makes sense to combine elevation with traverse. The elevation/traverse mechanism must also be able to physically secure each of our selected weapon types.

Elevation and Traverse

The front section of the rack would be fitted with three demountable enclosures, one each for power, communication and fire control.

The traverse/elevation system and hydraulic leveling legs (if fitted) would be powered by an on board generator and battery pack, supplemented by vehicle power. The communication enclosure could contain an elevating data link mast, fibre optic cable storage and local area networking system. Finally, the third enclosure would be for fire control electronics. The main question here is could an open architecture fire control system be used just as easily for CAMM as it could for a GMLRS round? I suspect the answer is not easily, but to exploit the benefits of this approach it would be a worthwhile development project, or at the very least, ensure connectors and power standards are uniform so that the three enclosures can be changed to suit.

Some missile systems use a soft launch mechanism, such as CAMM. Efflux management becomes less of an issue. GMLRS on the other hand has a significant efflux. For land applications, efflux is generally a fairly easy thing to manage but if we have any aspiration to use such a system on a ship, it must be carefully managed. Deflector plates and runways can be used, or simply exhaust over the side of the vessel.

The US Army Multi Mission Launcher (MML) takes a similar approach to the overall concept, they have successfully fired Longbow Hellfire, Stinger, Sidewinder, Miniature Hit to Kill Interceptor and even the Israeli Tamir missiles. Same launcher and same electronics but with different missile combinations as needed.

[tabs] [tab title=”Multi Mission Launcher”]

Multi Mission Launcher

[/tab] [tab title=”MML – Hellfire”]

[/tab] [tab title=”MML – Tamir”]

[/tab] [tab title=”Sidewinder”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

The MML has an elevation and traverse platform, universal interface kit and set of stabilisation legs but it is primarily aimed at the air defence ( Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc 2-I)) role so is relatively short.

What is amazing about MML though is that it was the US Army that conceived and built it on their own for less than $120 million.

The concept is entirely achievable.

Extending to enable free flight and guided rockets and larger missiles like CAMM and possibly even ASTER, should be achievable,

As smart as MML is, it still looks like what it is, an Army truck carrying expensive missiles, much like the Land CEPTOR truck shown below.


Looking at the various missile and rocket dimensions it is clear that even including the height penalty of a trainable launch mechanism capacity can still be reasonably good for a variety of rockets and missiles. On  a 20ft container with a length of 5.9m and 2.4m width, ATACMS, GMLRS, Naval Strike Missile, LAR-160, CAMM and CAMM-ER all fit. Because we know the dimensions of standard intermodal containers are the constraining factor, the number and types of missiles and rockets possible to be carried will be a product of these dimensions. If we want more or larger, go up to the next standard container size. LRASM and SCALP would need a 30ft flat rack. Even accounting for a recent stockpile reduction, the UK has a relatively large stock of Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles. The similar MBDA TAURUS missile has a ground launch system concept so I wonder if we could adopt the same approach?

[tabs] [tab title=”Ground Launched TAURUS”]

Ground launched TAURUS

[/tab] [tab title=”Container NSM”]

Ground Launched NSM

[/tab] [/tabs]

If we can get the system to be missile/rocket agnostic, able to fire most of our relevant complex weapons the final improvements would be to address carrying platform independence, visual appearance and ease of transfer/transport.

Ease of Transfer/Transport

Rockets and missiles are becoming increasingly costly, and as with many expensive ‘payloads’, they are often carried on relatively low-cost vehicles that are subject to maintenance and damage. The cost of the missiles is far in excess of the cost of the truck but the truck can be rendered non-serviceable by a myriad of relatively minor issues, and therefore, taking the missiles with it.

In peacetime, this could be as trivial as an indicator bulb but in war time, a broken driveshaft or engine fault would do just the same. The value of the truck is low, we have thousands of them. But the value of the missiles, both in cost and operational terms, is very high, we have far fewer missiles than trucks. If part of our land based air-defence capability was taken out of action by a single trucks engine problem, the potential consequences could be dire, far in excess of the perceived impact of an engine fault.

Maximising availability by quickly transferring the launch flat rack assembly from a broken truck to one that is not, has a great deal of operational value. With the extendible legs and swap body approach, the rack is simply raised a short distance, the broken truck pulled out of the way and a new truck reversed under the flat rack in turn. It is as simple as that, although a crane, forklift or telehandler could also be used.

Ease of transport is aided by the ISO corner fittings, using the global container transport infrastructure.

Visual Appearance

As our operational context has changed, specifically a context where NATO has absolute control of the air to deny enemy aerial observation the need for visual deception has also changed. The Taleban, Iraq or Libya possessed very little or no aerial observation capability. However, with the ubiquity of unmanned aerial observation systems and the reality of peer conflict, we must get used to operating in an environment where freedom from observation may not be possible in all cases.

There are millions of containers and swap bodies in use, their ubiquity allows the launcher to simply disappear into the civilian transport infrastructure background. This visual camouflage complicates enemy intelligence and targeting processes and in some circumstances, facilitate both tactical surprise and ambiguity of strategic intent.

Ambiguity can be used to our intention and with the addition of corner posts and top rails, the launch rack can be concealed and made to appear as a plain container or curtain side body.

What could be in here?

Swap Body

A load of toilet rolls, or;

  • 24 GMLRS or,
  • 8 Naval Strike Missiles or,
  • 4 ATACMS or,
  • 24 CAMM.

Every single one of the systems shown above could be mounted inside a 20 ft swap body container.

Carrying Platform Independence

As a norm, the flat rack launch platform would be carried on a green painted truck, but the ability to place the platform onto a trailer, a train, a barge or even a ship is supported.

This is would not be the norm, definitely a secondary capability, but a valuable one nonetheless.

Whilst not a return to the post Falklands era of containerised Seawolf it could be on the same same lines. The crucial difference is that Sea Ceptor/CAMM does not need a radar director and therefore, much more self-contained. In a task force, the inbound missile or aircraft location, identification and tracking would be performed by a Type 45 Destroyer, or possibly a Type 26 Frigate, with launch instruction and initial target location transmitted to the container over a tactical data link.

It simply provides some measure of expedient launch platform diversity.

The French have recently let a contract to explore the feasibility of using MLRS/GMLRS from their bâtiments de projection et de commandement (BPC) amphibious combat vessels, the Mistral Class. One of the concerns about using such systems from a ship is the adverse impact on accuracy caused by ship motion whilst at sea. Calculations for a land based system make the, entirely reasonable, assumption that it will not be moving. The need for precision land attack has been identified and unfilled for many years, Operation TELIC in 2003 identified the lack of precision land attack as a significant gap, Operation ELLAMY in Libya in 2011, again identified an unfilled gap. A post-Libya Janes Defence Weekly reported on a Royal Navy lessons learned document in which the two major shortcomings were a lack of precision land attack capability and organic unmanned ISR.

Janes quoted Colonel Pierson Royal Marines, 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.

In 2016, 13 years after Al Faw, the gap persists.

The Royal Navy intends to fill this gap with the Medium Calibre Gun on Type 26, but given the limited numbers and as yet unclear plan for precision-guided munitions for the gun, it strikes me that a perfect stop gap, or even longer term solution, may be to simply drive an MLRS/GMLRS vehicle onto a ship.

The ever practical Israeli’s have looked at this from a similar perspective and for the next iteration of their Meko Saar corvette are likely to include a set of launch tubes for their various guided rocket systems.

Saar6 Meko

The thorny issue of gass efflux management seems to have been solved by hanging the exhaust off the sides of the ship, neat, simple.

Because the flat rack has ISO container corner castings, instead of driving the vehicle onto the deck, the flat rack launcher could simply be dropped onto ISO container twistlock fitting welded onto the deck.

The maps below show distance.

On the first, the smallest is 40km, chosen as the approximate radar and visual horizon at 20m above sea level for both the observed and observer. This results in a 30km inland range for a 70km range GMLRS round, the second circle. The largest circle shows a 120km radius that represents the 120km range achieved with the GMLRS+ rocket motor.

The second map shows a 300km range circle for an ATACMS or LRPF round instead of GMLRS/GMLRS+.

[tabs] [tab title=”BPC”]

BPC GMLRS Sea platform

[/tab] [tab title=”Map 1″]


[/tab] [tab title=”Map 2″]


[/tab] [/tabs]

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

  • 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

The Royal Navy is short of ships, whilst the Typ 26 is going to get a 127mm main gun, precision natures seem to be only an aspiration and there are only going to be eight of them. Maximising platform independence using a simple rocket launcher for GMLRS/LPRF allows the Royal Navy at risk, a much greater area of enemy territory than they can currently.

SIX – Throw It Off the Ramp

The final scheme returns to the air and the recent news from DARPA on its ‘swarming gremlin’ concept for UAS.


Darpa framed the concept thus;

The program envisions launching groups of gremlins from large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft, as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The retrieval element looks especially challenging.

The DARPA concept might be seen as a development of concepts reminiscent of any number of studies looking at ‘transport bombers’ and even the RAF’s Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) looked at launching stand-off cruise missiles from transport aircraft. More recently, Raytheon is marketing their MALD and MALD-J, both evolved from the earlier Air Launched Decoy ADM-160A. The Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) is used to lure enemy air defence systems into revealing themselves or attacking aircraft or ISTAR systems that can provide targeting information for stand off weapons. With a range of 500nm, endurance of 45 minutes, operating altitude of 40,000 feet plus, speed of Mach 0.91, modular electronics fit and emissions signature that is designed to mimic allied aircraft it can also be used to simply overwhelm air defences with targets, if they attack MALD they are depleting their finite missile stocks.

MALD and MALD-J have also been designed for carriage on aircraft carriers and unlike many complex systems was developed and delivered under budget. As can be seen from the video above, MALD and MALD-J can be launched in significant quantities using transport aircraft like the C17 and C130. This is called the M-CALS or MALD Cargo Aircraft Launch System

[tabs] [tab title=”MALD”]

[/tab] [tab title=”MCALS”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

It is an elegant and cheap way of launching decoys in quantity and at low cost.

M-CALS can be stacked so that on a single pallet, 8 decoys can be carried and launched. If more are required the MCALS launch pallet is simply discarded and the next in line positioned. In aircraft like the C17 that can carry two pallets wide, more can be launched without ditching the launch pallet. It was also reported in 2009 that the UK had shown an interest in MALD but this self-evidently went nowhere.

I quite like the concept of using expendable decoys and if the UK is ever to go against, as the phrase goes, anyone armed with slightly more effective weapons than a sharpened mango, they may well be essential.

This Parliamentary Question was also interesting;

18 Nov 2010

Penny Mordaunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has made an assessment of the feasibility of launching a like-for-like equivalent of the Storm Shadow missile by a means other than a Tornado jet; and if he will make a statement. [24299]

Nick Harvey: The Ministry of Defence has assessed that it would in principle be technically feasible to launch the Storm Shadow missile, which is the UK’s only air launched cruise-missile, from a number of in-service and future fixed-wing platforms other than the Tornado fast jet. These include the Harrier GR9, Hercules C-130J, A400M, Typhoon and joint strike fighter.

And that is the proposal for scheme number 6, in two parts.

ONE; Confirm feasibility of ramp launching Storm Shadow from A400M and C17 in preparation for FCASW. MBDA have already completed trials of ramp launching the Taurus cruise missile, Storm Shadow is conceptually very similar to Taurus.

TWO; Confirm feasibility of ramp eject/launch SPEAR Capability 3 in preparation for a future stand off role if a jamming and/or decoy payload can be fitted into the SPEAR body design.

Both of these would be modest risk reduction activities, not to bring anything into service but to inform future plans.


So there you go, all of these have a couple of common themes, namely;

Preparation for peer conflict.

Maximising what we already have.

Are they that harebrained?



Table of Contents

RN TLAM 4 Introduction
MBDA Brimstone layout on Tornado Brimstone
MBDA SPEAR 3 Image 2 SPEAR Capability 3
RAF Tornado GR4's at RAF Akrotiri Cyprus being armed with the Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb. Paveway IV
Tornado Storm Shadow Storm Shadow
Royal Navy Submarine HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA Tomahawk
FASGW(H) Missile Sea Venom
Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) Martlet (Lightweight Multirole Missile)
HMS Montrose fires Harpoon Harpoon
F-35 UK Weapons Trials November 2014 ASRAAM & PAVEWAY IV shot 2 ASRAAM
RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles Meteor BVRAAM
Soldier Mans Starstreak HVM High Velocity Missile System During Exercise Olympic Guardian for London 2012 Starstreak HVM
Sea Ceptor missile system FLAADS(M) Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)
Sea Viper HMS Defender Type 45 Live Fire Sea Viper/ASTER
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA. Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS)
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle Exactor (SPIKE NLOS)
Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin. 42 Commando Royal Marines were the first UK Armed Force to live fire the new Javelin system. The live fire demonstration was an early opportunity to see the Javelin being live fired in the UK. The future reliance on simulation,rather than live firing will mean that a demonstration such as this will be a rare event in the UK during the service life of the system. This image was submitted as part of the Peregrine 06 Photographic Competition. This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at www.defenceimages.mod.uk subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number 45145988.jpg ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photographer: PO (PHOT) Sean Clee Image 45145988.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)
NLAW Training Aid Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW)
Raytheon Defender Laser CIWS Lasers
mind_the_gap-logo Summary, Trends and Issues
Monkey Harebrained Schemes
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May 30, 2016 1:00 am

Well I really can’t argue with any of that boss, your far to practical for my liking. You should get a job at the MoD……

Seriously, I am not sure I entirely agree with your obsession with ground launch Brimstone – it’s frakking massive for an armoured vehicle. If you want a sneaky armoured vehicle a la the old Striker CVRT variant, based on FRES SV, would it be able to carry even 4 missiles ? Look at the size of that bloody armoured pod on top of the 8 x8 in the video ! How about taking that existing, well tested Multi-Mission Launcher, but providing some maskirovka by putting inside a 20ft ISO container, with drop down sides for aiming and firing ?

Only other hair brained scheme I have issue with is introducing another calibre / type of rocket. Would the money not be better spent on a HIMARS type vehicle and the new enhanced effect rockets etc ?

But of course, your modular containerised weapon system should be invested in immediately !!

May 30, 2016 1:39 am

Just a note, there is a box launched LRASM that has been swotted up! I can’t find the link to it (Ask on UKDF, they might know) but that would be a perfect option, that would give even Type 23’s a hell of a punch and get Type 45 its land attack at last!

May 30, 2016 3:14 am

What if you have to transition from open field warfare to FIBUA? Can you distmantle the overwatch ATGMs and turn them into personnel-carried weapons?

May 30, 2016 6:02 am

@Tenor @TD

Here ya go


But bigger problem, how to insert this on a Type 26? Remove the whole section aft the main gun?

Necessary Evil
Necessary Evil
May 30, 2016 10:36 am

TD, you have convinced me that there is no good solution to the ASM gap. If Harpoon II is fairly cheap it might be worth buying that just in case there is a naval war with Russia (assuming that is has the range to do the job). Otherwise there doesn´t seem much point in buying something that can´t be used in most real world situations. I didn´t realise that the ISD for the ship-launched LRASM was 2024. I guess NSM would be the smart choice, but again I am not sure it will have the range required in the 2020s and 2030s.

May 30, 2016 11:19 am

With regards to SSGM future fits on T45,T26/31 utilising MK 41 VLS or the Harpoon footprint.

The T45 has space allocated for a VLS system but nothing has been dropped into that space yet. Currently that space, in most cases holds the all important and mission critical Cross Trainer, Running Machine and Exercise Bike.

The T45 Fit to Receive GWS 60 Harpoon launchers removed from T22 Batch 3’s are installed aft of the Aster silo which is a good place to put them. Harpoon launchers Fwd of the Aster silo and aft of the Gun would be constantly goffer’d in heavy seas and the reliability would be affected. From personal experience Exocet on T22 suffered a number of smashed canister doors and flooded cannisters due to heavy seas and their location being so far forward.

The Lockheed proposal for a Harpoon type launcher for LRASM along with the VLS option, would cover all the bases not only for the RN but also other Harpoon operators who would want to upgrade.

For the RN you would get comonality of a missle (standfast the booster) and if the FAA and RAF bought into it another common missile for aircraft use.

However the chances of it happening are probably slim. It being a huge capability upgrade, offering comonality of missiles and a relativly easy fit it will never get past the budget holders.

Necessary Evil
Necessary Evil
May 30, 2016 11:22 am

Does anyone know what the cost of a MALD-J is versus a Tomahawk? Buying whichever is cheapest in large quantities seems to be the most cost effective way of gaining air superiority. I would imagine the MALD-J is cheaper, but then it is a newer system.

May 30, 2016 4:36 pm

TD. I see you & I raise. One of my many rants, is that the 2 year delay in Successor SSBN, might allow an extra Astute (the 8th) to be built. Might even be needed to keep the skills going. If you add the Virginia Payload Module, you gain four large vertical tubes that can house a total of 28 Tomahawk. This is going on block V Virginia class from 2019 onwards. I understand that BAE/RN/MoD have already studied a modified Astute with 4 large vertical tubes, so the groundwork is pretty much done. The Americans reckon it will add 15% to the cost of a Virginia, so if that applies here, a £900 million Astute, becomes a £1035 million Astute + 4 Tubes.

Rocket Banana
May 30, 2016 7:15 pm

“…drive an MLRS/GMLRS vehicle onto a ship”

Excellent idea! Line then up nicely on port and starboard of a Bay class and you could deliver a pretty impressive broadside.

paul g
May 30, 2016 7:35 pm

On the notes about looking for multi calibre systems you missed out the K-MLRS produced by south korea that it twin podded with the ability to have different systems in each pod and is mounted on a 8×8 vehicle.
With regards to a missile system mounted on an APC type vehicle, the FFG G5 is a warrior/ajax sized tracked vehicle which has the option to multi mission by swapping out the module where the troops would normally sit, one of the advantages is the exterior wall is permanent so always looks the same whatever is fitted. It might be possible to use warriors as donor vehicles

May 30, 2016 7:35 pm

An eighth Astute is eminently sensible. So therefore not going to happen. The last long lead items for the 7th boat were ordered at the back of last year. So if it was to be ordered it would need to be pretty much in the next 6 months.

paul g
May 30, 2016 7:37 pm

forgot to add you tube video of G5

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
May 30, 2016 9:04 pm

Really good series and you really saved the best for last! I couldn’t agree more with most of your conclusions.

Just one point. You talk about potentially having a decoy/jammer payload on SPEAR 3. That’s fine, but why not have it replace part of the warhead and fit a smaller warhead – even the equivalent of a grenade wrapped in tungsten pellets. In a defence suppression role it wouldn’t have to penetrate an MBT. That way you have a decoy that the enemy can’t afford to shoot down.

If you’re going to go that route, why not try to fit ALARM like detection capability into SPEAR 3. It wouldn’t need to be as precise as it could use its MMW seeker and onboard threat library for terminal guidance. It could loiter far longer than an ALARM, be carried in greater quantities, and have a reversionary standoff and direct attack mode against non-emitters.

Why not make some SPEAR 3s without the MMW and SALH and instead reliant on DGPS/INS all the way to the target, That would make for much cheaper attacks on soft targets where c 3 metre CEP was more than sufficient. That too could effectively be a decoy for the fully specced missiles in saturation attacks on IADS targets as the enemy would not know which missiles were full spec and which were not. These missiles could be fitted with an MLRS AW equivalent warhead with tens of thousands of tungsten frags.

I’m not sure about the practicality of firing GMLRs from a pitching, rolling ship though. Also surprised you did not advocate SDB1 on redundant unguided MLRS rockets. There is already an MLRS-AW equivalent warhead under development for SDB-1.

May 30, 2016 10:23 pm

One should always take mr. Karbers writing with a pinch of salt, a 45 foot ISO Container of salt.

May 31, 2016 2:04 pm

navyrecognition has a report on the SeaSpider anti-torpedo torpedo. A Germany-Canada joint project.

May 31, 2016 2:27 pm

8th Astute with VLS would be great but as always cost is an issue. If it did happen though then I wonder whether the design changes could also accommodate a PWR3 reactor. That might even be an astute (sorry, couldn’t resist!) political move in anticipation of Successor. De-risk at least one component of the Successor project slightly, possibly re-allocate (as in hide) a bit of development budget away from Successor’s price tag and onto design costs for an Astute Batch 2 class (which sadly would very possibly be a class of one) and maybe other political advantages I haven’t thought of.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
May 31, 2016 2:42 pm

Since the missile launch containers will inevitably have different thermal characteristics to ones containing goods, or empty, one could make decoys by requisitioning large numbers of empty containers, spraying them matte green and black and installing Honda or similar generators and stoves in them in them to provide a suitable thermal signature and radios to send bogus status info. They could be positioned in likely launch locations and around live missile launch containers in more exposed locations.

Another thing you could do is mount the launch containers on wheels to enable them, (and the decoys) to be pushed in and out of suitable structures to conceal them and roll them out to fire when required.

May 31, 2016 5:55 pm

How is that a good use of a finite budget? Rather than spend 1035 million for an astute plus the additional cost of the 28 Tomahawk missiles that are significantly more expensive than the ship launched versions. Surely it would be better to spend that £1bn on fitting the type 45 with mk41 VLS, I believe that would allow up to 16 tomahawks to be carried per ship for a total of 96 missiles. That would still leave significant amount of money left over which could cover the costs of the type 45’s first refit, including fixing engine problems and buying spare tomahawk missiles, giving a much greater capability for the same amount of money. If there is a problem with a gap in submarine production then the sensible approach is to bring forward the building of the successor program.

May 31, 2016 6:18 pm

Ron. It is timing. Perhaps you can bring he next SSBN forward, but what if you cannot? What if T45 problems cannot be fixed & they end up being retired early? £1035m seems a lot, but if you end up spending £900m anyway, then an extra £135m for a more capable asset, is probably a good investment.

May 31, 2016 7:37 pm

My point was not about reducing military spending its was about the best use of the money and I would argue what is the justification for an 8th astute primarily to be able to launch 28 TLAM? When the same or less could be spent giving us a more significant capability in the same area. Having 6 type 45’s refitted/upgraded and able to carry up to 96 TLAM and 7 Astutes would be in my view a better capability than 6 current type 45’s and 8 Astutes. My view on wanting some sort of SSGN’s is more about being USN lite than actual military capabilities.

May 31, 2016 7:55 pm

No point having all those tlams if you don’t have the corresponding strategic recon and planning capability to know what to shoot at.

May 31, 2016 8:09 pm

Where was i proposing we buy a load of TLAMs without the ability to find targets for them??

Peter Elliott
May 31, 2016 8:21 pm

That was one of the lessons of Libya wasn’t it. Only the Americans had the means and capability to indentify and classify the targets. The rest of NATO simply couldn’t do it. Either to have the ISTAR capability to see into Libya at high resolution or the HQ staff at the necessary skills and scale to sift and process the data into a usable target list.

Hopefully the lesson has been learned. Any fixes will however be the sort of sensitive thing that we wouldn’t hear about one way or the other.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 31, 2016 8:55 pm

HMAFR, I would expect that if an SV or MIV variant were to carry a mounted ATGM, it would be somewhat integrated with the vehicle and not removable.

You can have components under armour on the vehicle, an integrated power supply, more than one missile ready to fire as the weight isn’t such an issue, and the weapon sight might well be the best optical sensor on the vehicle. It could be unnecessarily limiting and impractical to have a removable missile system.

In the British Army’s MILAN era, mechanized units would have the CVRT MILAN compact turret as well as the man-portable weapon team aboard a 432. The larger Swingfire didn’t have a comparative stand-alone launcher.

The man-portable MILAN launcher could be fitted to the Landrover WMIK ring; but that wasn’t a vehicle mounted system as such. It provided a rapid ready-to-fire ability, but was normally dismounted as soon as the vehicle stopped for any length of time.

The man-portable launcher was also quickly plonked onto Warrior turrets for the Gulf War, but not integrated in any way, and your fella would have to pop out to use it. Done to address the particular lack of capability (eg, Bradley TOW), but hardly perfect.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 31, 2016 11:37 pm

I think the big obvious box launchers, for multiple Hellfire missiles, found on vehicles like that M113 are down to the lock-on-after-launch capability.

LOAL allows missiles like Hellfire and Brimstone to be deployed on ground vehicles with different operating concepts than wire-guided line-of-site missiles like Swingfire and TOW.

LOAL missiles can be chucked at the enemy from out of sight vehicles, potentially to find a target themselves, or more likely for indirect engagement – designated by other ground forces, Apache, or other aircraft and UAV. With a battlefield cooperative engagement system, an Apache could even launch the missiles itself.

The launch vehicle can be essentially an extra magazine for an Apache, rather than a more discreet overwatch vehicle like the CVRT Striker.

June 1, 2016 4:01 am

thanks Brian.

June 1, 2016 8:55 am

TD I applaud you for highlighting (yet again) the lack of battlefield anti-tank overwatch capability.

My take on things from ground level.

I’m struggling to understand why anyone would believe that overwatch for highly mobile tracked AFVs could be effectively provided by dismounted Javelin equipped teams? Failure by senior commanders to fully understand the tactics, role and capability of the CVR(T) Striker and the need to save a few pounds on whole fleet management led to its untimely demise. They were “replaced” by CVR(T) Spartan mounted troops equipped with Javelin. A huge step backwards. However, that’s a cost saving of 4 x Strikers and 12 men per Squadron. They gave the bean counters a sacrifice and then turned a blind eye.

Not to worry though, Ajax/SV Ares will be an ATGM armed overwatch specific variant which will fulfil this role in the future. (All 38 of them) That’s until it was halted, probably due to the failure by senior commanders to fully understand the tactics, role and capability of an ATGM equipped AFV and the need to save a few pounds on whole fleet management. They gave the bean counters a sacrifice and then turned a blind eye.

Anti-tank overwatch is important enough to warrant its own specialised tracked vehicle, its folly to think that dismounted teams, even if they had ATGM range out to 4kms, could perform in the same capacity as that of a specific tracked, armoured, long-range ATGM equipped vehicle.

Reiterating my comment from the excellent Scimitar to FRES to Ajax project. No one is particularly interested in, or cares very much about overwatch, until they are taking direct tank fire or hightailing it away from rapidly advancing enemy armour desperate for even the slightest time-giving advantage.

Mike W
June 1, 2016 10:25 am

“I’m struggling to understand why anyone would believe that overwatch for highly mobile tracked AFVs could be effectively provided by dismounted Javelin equipped teams”

Agree wholeheartedly. And you are spot-on on the reasons why Striker was withdrawn and why Ajax/SV Ares ATGM armed overwatch variant halted. Something along those lines should be the next Army procurement priority.

I am still not 100% clear what TD wants in this area, though. I don’t think your ideas are at all outlandish, TD, but you say:

“The easiest and quickest way to start addressing the issue is to put Javelin on a vehicle remote weapon mount.” Agreed but then we get:

Increment 2, which is about providing a dedicated direct fire anti-tank guided weapon carrier, with a recommendation for Brimstone 2. But then we get:

Increment 3, which is about employing a non-line of sight missile, with the recommendation for an armoured vehicle for the Exactor missile, instead of the trailer.

Now you talk about increments, TD. Increments to me means increases or additions, so do you want all three? I agree the situation is serious but could we afford all of them? It would be nice but is there a priority?

Incidentally, those vehicles you mention as being German in origin (mast-mounted observation and firing systems). Well, there was a British idea for the same kind of vehicle that was well advanced when it was dropped (25 years ago?). As far as I remember, it was called Panther. Does the concept go back to the old (WWII) idea of the Praying Mantis?

Brilliant series, by the way.

June 1, 2016 12:35 pm

Interesting ideas, a bit all over the place but interesting. Can’t help but think some “problems” and “solutions” are a bit too pat and too dependent on “tech” though. For example, the “ubiquitous UAV” problem. I believe that UAVs can be a problem and may require a solution, but I suspect the scale they are put on is a lot larger than they are really worth. Or things like “all vehicles will end up getting hit by small arms/shrapnel” hence all need armouring. Again, it depends.

Remember Red Trousers? One thing I really agree with him is that recon is best done on foot or on a bicycle, any vehicle is just transport to get you from Point A to somewhere close to Point B and if you are always getting engaged by small arms or artillery (so…why were they shelling their own battle area?), something is very wrong with your infiltration skills!

Sometimes the best solution is not more toys, just more skilled and sensible/patient men.

shark bait
June 1, 2016 12:53 pm

Rocket launcher freefall LLM? Target illuminated by UAV or Infantry to provide CAS where CAS isnt available.

shark bait
June 1, 2016 1:02 pm

8th Astute with VLS is unlikely to work, the common missile compartment wont fit inside the Astute hull.

The concept is a nice one however, much better to wait until the end of the successor build and then proceed with a shortened successor, perhaps with only 2 or 4 CMC tubes, to make a sub class of SSGN.

In the mean time, like @Ron mentions, the best option for lots of VLS exists with a T45 upgrade.

June 1, 2016 4:56 pm

Shark Bait but why does the UK need to have SSGN’s?

shark bait
June 1, 2016 6:08 pm

@Ron, what it really needs is more ‘hunter killer’ nuke boats.

I assume the successor would be equipped suitability for that role if it wasn’t tailored to carrying our deterrent.

With that in mind a shortened successor would make sense, as the design will still be state of the art, and importantly paid for. When using a shortened successor it would make sense to keep a couple of the tubes to add additional roles.

I don’t think we need an SSGM like the Americans have, that would likley take up our entire stockpile of TLAM’s, and a decades worth of budget if all released in salvo!

June 1, 2016 8:18 pm

We are going to have 7 of the most advanced hunter killers in the world when you add that to the american fleet of submarines and compare it to the rest of the world there is simply no justification for more. The successor is being designed for a different task that makes it unsuitable for hunting other submarines. I just don’t see any need for the UK to be able to launch a large number of TLAM missiles from a submarine, especially as the Americans already have this capability.

June 1, 2016 9:33 pm

The new SSBN boats are going cost a fortune. The defence budget has a lot of expensive programs ongoing – carriers , f35 and more ,then promised upcoming programs type 26 , type 31 etc.

Is the SSBN project being pushed forward only to maintain Sub building skills and jobs as the Astute production run is drawing to a close.
The cost of the SSBN project could have implications for expenditure in these other program’s .
The US is extending the life of its SSBN’s. Would it not be better to push Trident boat replacement back and extend the life of the current Trident Fleet. And maintain sub building skills by building a few more Astutes . Then when strains on the budget are reduced replace Trident. This could reduce financial risks to other program’s and A few extra Astutes would be useful.

shark bait
June 1, 2016 10:13 pm

@Ron, yes we will have 7 highly capable nuke boats, the plan is to have a fleet of 7 to give us 4 available at any time, which probably means 3 boats on deployment. Just 3 boats to counter the proliferation of capable submarines beyond the traditional naval powers, to many stable and not so stable states. I would say there is a pretty clear justification for more subs as the proliferation of modern subs continues.

It is also not just the ability to launch TLAM’s from subs, but extra are planned for the CMC, such as UAV and AUV which will provide excellent covert capabilities where a frigate it just too viable. Such a sub could launch the ‘swarming gremlins’, sterilising the environment for more high profile assets to follow. (BTW, ‘swarming gremlins’ is an excellent concept)

@Don, the SSBN project is not being pushed forward, it has always been scheduled to begin after the Astute programme concludes.

The current Vanguards that carry the trident missiles are being extended already, and the successor SSBN is scheduled to enter service towards the end of the Vanguards extended lives, there is no room for manoeuvre, the successor programme has to proceed otherwise the nuclear deterrent is a risk, which is unacceptable.

June 1, 2016 11:17 pm

Shark Bait where is this proliferation of modern submarines happening? Actually have a look at the number of submarines that NATO members have your see it massively outmatches the rest of the world. Even if there was a massive proliferation of non-nuclear submarines to “beyond traditional powers” that doesn’t mean our best move to counter it is to build more nuclear submarines, especially when nuclear submarines cost 3 times as much as conventional submarines.

” Such a sub could launch the ‘swarming gremlins’, sterilising the environment for more high profile assets to follow. (BTW, ‘swarming gremlins’ is an excellent concept)”

I’m sorry to tell you this but there is no such things as a “silver bullet” take a look at Afghanistan see what the most powerful nations with all those resources managed against a bunch of guys with AK’S and RPG’s, you shouldn’t believe all these hyped up concepts sold by defence companies who will be making these products. The greater the impact of a technological advancement the more resources/urgency put to countering said advantage by non-aligned states.

shark bait
June 2, 2016 7:33 am

@Ron, RE Subs;
Algeria, Iran, Israeli, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, just off the top of my head. Russia and China will sell them to any one, which is only going to continue to proliferate over the next decades. Non of those are going to threaten the UK, but they certainly have the ability to restrict our carrier strike from doing what it wants to do. Even an old Libyan sub managed to cause the Royal Navy trouble, and that without considering Russian and Chinese boats. I think its clear the threat is there and increasing. Moving forward 3 nuke boats and 3 frigates is not enough to counter these threats.

shark bait
June 2, 2016 7:34 am

@Ron, RE gremlins;
“I’m sorry to tell you this but there is no such things as a “silver bullet” take a look at Afghanistan see what the most powerful nations with all those resources managed against a bunch of guys with AK’S and RPG’s”

Yes but we wont always be up against “a bunch of guys with AK’S and RPG’s”, I think we will have a shock when we have to operate without clear skies and total control over the EM spectrum.

The ‘gremlins’ are not proposed for hybrid warfare, they are proposed to counter increasing sensitive defences.

Its a good concept, fill the enemy’s increasingly high fidelity system full of noise, then the high value low observable platforms can slip through and target the installations that are busy tracking the ‘gremlins’.

It reminds me of one of the arguments against successor with people claiming that sub hunting drones will make our deterrent too easy to find. The thing is that is so easy to counter with more autonomous under water vehicles that mimic SSBN’s, forcing the enemy spend time chasing false positives. Yes, drones will make subs easier to find, but they will also make them harder to find, so the net effect is neutral.

Decoys and deception are going to be extremely valuable tools, alongside low observability, to counter sophisticated defences.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 2, 2016 9:41 am

Shark Bait, the Common Missile Compartment is the ballistic missile box for the Vanguard & Ohio replacements.

There won’t be an eighth Astute, and if there was, it would be unlikely to incorporate substantial design changes on a single boat; however, if vertical launch tubes were desired for Royal Navy SSNs, the Virginia Payload Module launchers would be the preference rather than the CMC launchers.

You don’t need a Trident tube to vertically launch Tomahawk, and the UK is unlikely to expensively develop its own super-sized sub-launched cruise missiles.

Virginia class submarines already have two short vertical launch tubes in the nose – six TLAM in each. Future boats in the class will be built with the VPM – four longer tubes behind the tower, seven TLAM in each.

The VPM is a hull plug that cannot be common to the Astutes; however, Astutes are fatter than Virginias, so a future evolution of the Astute might be able to accommodate the same launch tubes within a bespoke module (the VPM tubes fit within the Virginia pressure hull; Astutes are externally bigger, but I don’t know about the pressure hull, and a bespoke module might be too expensive or impractical for other reasons).

The VPM is conceived as a multi-purpose launcher – manned/unmanned vehicles, decoys, mines, etc, as well as TLAM. Theoretically, larger cruise or short range ballistic missiles could be developed for the module too, so compatibility with a future Royal Navy SSN class could be beneficial.

What we don’t need though is a Vanguard-like SSGN with scores of TLAM. It’s too expensive, unless you already have redundant SSBN lying about with enough life left in them.

June 2, 2016 9:58 am


The flexibility of ISO containers is beyond doubt. However, you cannot make military vehicles look like civilian vehicles as you suggest, and you cannot ‘simply disappear into the civilian transport infrastructure background’. The Geneva Convention and Additional Protocols mandate above all things the protection of civilians, and military forces must be distinguishable from from civilian vehicles, personnel, etc. It does not mean you have to advertise your position, but you cannot use civilian objects for concealment as to do so invites attack, especially where your opponent may not be a signatory to the GC. So by all means use civilian trucks, but you must paint them green and they must be marked with the nationality of the owning force.

I expect we’ll get much scoffing and haw-hawing about how Russia will ignore the GC. No, they won’t. Proxy forces are not bound by the GC, but state military forces are and even Russia wants international legitimacy.

June 2, 2016 1:33 pm

Shark you missed the point i was making, my point regarding silver bullets was that if they, by themselves, cannot win against guys with AK’s and RPG’s then they have no chance, by themselves, against a peer opponent which in truth is the only enemy we actually will ever HAVE to fight. I completely agree that most likely our forces will be shocked and unprepared when we go against a peer opponent and will lead in the very least too a much longer war and significantly higher casualties, than if we prepared for that eventuality. Your penultimate paragraph is exactly what I’m saying, but while it makes it neutral, if the costs our disproportionate to one side then they lose, unless your fighting against a non-peer opponent and have such a massive economic advantage. Every capability has a cost there is only so much we can spend so we need a coherent strategy and tactics while making sure our equipment and training means we can execute them. Instead of “oh that looks shiny, i’ll have X of them” and then figuring out how to use them.

June 2, 2016 2:14 pm

I thought that in GW1, GW2, Afghanistan and most other ‘wars’ during the ‘kick ass’ phase we did pretty well against large forces in tanks and with airforces and ‘stuff’. Were we fail against people with AKs is when we are trying to ‘win hearts and minds’ and not being ruthless and trying to kill everything put in front of us — we are good at the ‘kill everything that moves, just try to not kill many civilians’ bit — it kind of all goes wrong when we try to use our military as someone else’s policeman and tell them to try not to upset anyone or kill any ( rather than many ) civilians.

June 2, 2016 2:51 pm


But none of those was against peer opponents. They distort our view of how a real peer fight will be fought/ won. For example we now have troops with body Armour designed to protect vital organs and to stop/resist bullets, as minimizing KIA’s mainly from bullet wounds was priority. In a peer war the major threat to infantry is most likely going to be indirect fires, as it has been in the past simply because if your direct weapons can hit them then theirs can hit you. There are many stories from Afghanistan of platoons being surrounded and trapped by enemy fires for long periods of times. In a modern conflict against a peer nation if troops get caught like that within minutes artillery/mortar fire is likely to wipe them out. Ask yourself though why aren’t we any good at the “being somebody’s policeman”?? It’s all well and good having the equipment and troops but if you don’t know how to use them then they are worthless. The German army on paper was not superior to France and yet within a week the war was lost and it took only a further 5 weeks to finish the job, something they couldn’t do in 4 years the first time!

June 2, 2016 9:53 pm

It’s my understanding that you can disguise military vehicles, equipment etc as civilian or pretty much anything provided you shed the disguise or declare your intent prior to commencing hostilities. Thus a light gun in a container is fine as long as you don’t fire from within it. Sailing under false colours is OK as long as you strike the false colours and raise your own before you start firing.

What would need to be considered is that if you regularly hide amongst/as civilian vehicles, who is liable when the opposition starts lighting up all similar vehicles to get at your launchers? Though you might claim as precedent the risk posed to innocent woodland due to the military propensity to hide in them.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 3, 2016 11:57 am

There has been so much great discussion on this thread that it is difficult to know where to start. I’ll bung in a few observations of my own (all just opinion with all the usual disclaimers!)

1. There can be no silver bullets.

This is undoubtedly true when you are fighting a large group of highly reproductive/recruiting, devious, sometimes suicidal people who follow a 10th century ideology, blend in with the civilian population. They typically have cheap, expendable weapons, and pitifully little infrastructure that is entirely dual-use and is pretty much self sustaining down to individual village level. When you are fighting a peer opponent you are almost certainly fighting an enemy with highly trained, expensive soldiers who do not believe a crazy death cult and don’t want to be killed. They in turn will using limited quantities of highly expensive equipment and are supported by a society that includes a lot of highly vulnerable infrastructure that an opponent could target. Furthermore, even with hybrid warfare, their objectives will often be geographical involving seizure of terrain by conventional forces that will be clearly identifiable as such.

Clearly there are numerous recorded instances of “silver bullets” working in the latter scenario at least as far back as WW2 and opportunities for their use are probably much greater against the relatively small forces that possible peer opponents could throw at us today and, if necessary, their supporting dual-use infrastructure which has arguably become ever more vulnerable. In the Falklands the use of ONE Paveway II (the first ever used operationally IIRC) and the open-channel threat to use another one allegedly brought the conflict to an end.

2. The legality of having containers mingling in the civilian transportation network.

At least in the near future, it is pretty unlikely that a peer opponent will achieve the sensor coverage necessary to read the markings on individual olive drab or desert tan freight containers. If he has that level of air superiority it’s arguably all over anyway. Even in a contested air environment, optical sensors would be of relatively low resolution or non optical ones like SLAR would be used. An olive green freight container would not be an unusual thing to find in any farmyard, engineering firm, blacksmith,s, boat dealer etc. However, of you were really worried about some kind of JSTARSki or ASTORxing finding your containers, you can either wheel them in and out of structures or cover them in some kind of radar reflective/obsorbent, rapidly removable camouflage system, like Barracuda, or even obscure them by parking civilian vehicles close to them or leaning sheeting against them. The possibilities are endless.

3. Countermobility.

We quietly disposed of our Shielder/VOLCANO systems a while back. If we are now so worried about using any autonomous system in defence against enemy armour, should we not be looking at something like the PIP Hornet that was shelved by the States about a decade ago?


They could be remotely delivered and activated, cued and turned off and there would even be the option of a man-in-the-loop option for firing. They would fit in very well with the current networked weapons ideology. Although vulnerable themselves, they in turn, could (in hand emplaced applications) be covered by remotely activated, sensor cued Claymores, or XM-7 spiders. It seems to have gone very quiet on the XM-7 and Intelligent Munition System front since 2013 though.




June 3, 2016 2:56 pm

Chris Werb

I can’t argue numerous examples, but i would argue that the Falklands was definitely not won/lost due to one weapon, there’s plenty of pieces on this site alone covering the war and I’ve never read/heard anywhere say it was down to one weapon system. I’m not saying that a weapon can’t make a difference but rather you must not expect it to make such a difference you can win the war with that alone and not focus on the other factors, war is not top trumps. WW2 shows the development of plenty of advancements in weapons and then counters to said weapons. The best example is nuclear weapons they are a war winning weapon except they aren’t because our potential adversaries have found a way of defeating them. The bigger and more obvious the advantage a weapon gives the quicker the enemy is likely to counter it, simple because if it doesn’t it would probably lose.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 3, 2016 4:45 pm


I don’t recall saying that a Harrier with Paveway II won the conflict single handed, but I have read accounts in several places that had them surrendering after one bomb was dropped (on a 155m howitzer) IIRC and the targeting of the next one on an HQ was broadcast on an unencrypted channel suspected/known to be monitored by the enemy. There are other instances where single or limited numbers of weapons/munitions forced outcomes (the mining of Haiphong harbour, the use of MILAN during the attack on Boca House, and the sinking of the Tirpitz (i’d throw in the the sinking of the Belgrano as well, but I’m not sure the Mk 8 steam torpedo could be classed as a silver bullet :p ) are examples that come to mind.

It would be very convenient if potential enemies were to stop innovating, but the fact remains that they have put innovative weapon systems into service before we (the UK). Just off the top of my head they beat us (UK and US) to MRLs, APFSDS-T ammo, a general issue assault rifle, smart top attack weapons and submarine and ship launched AShMs. We (the West) were forced to come up with counters to all of the above.

Yes, innovating forces the enemy to come up with counters, but is that such a bad thing? They are forced to spend money and time countering an innovation rather than building more of the kit that worked prior to the new weapon system being rolled out. As long as you don’t push them over the edge into actually attacking before we can deploy, you have a win without a shot being fired.

Some systems will essentially put the enemy into no-win situations. Prior to the advent of ASTOR/MLRS/Brimstone/Longbow/HELLFIRE, an enemy could essentially own the night at a distance and, absent of other observation platforms or stay behinds, could form up in large numbers and attack in overwhelming strength with little or no warning, particularly at night and in poor weather. Even with mid 80s IADS, our losses trying to stop them doing so with a combination of fast air recon and CAS/BAI would have been horrendously costly and largely ineffective. We now have aircraft that can take out 12 or 16 tanks from eight or more KM from non line of sight launch points at night and in any weather. Buying AW and SMART munitions for the MLRS to me is a no cheap no-brainer for similar reasons. These are capabilities that did not exist before and for which the counters available to the enemy are limited.

Putting the same capabilities you already had into cheap freight containers, dispersing them, hiding them and psuedo-randomly moving them around also gives puts the enemy in a very difficult position. Gone are the days when an artillery regiment would pull up in close order in a surveyed location 10km behind the FEBA, generating an obvious signature, or worse still have to deduce its own position and azimuth by traditional means before banging away for fifteen minutes to achieve a possible outcome. A combination of modern navigation systems, precision and top attack munitions and containerisation would force the enemy to locate widely deployed, sometimes hidden weaponised ISO containers among hundreds or thousands of others. up to 50km behind the FEBA or trying to hit every last container they could locate and come up with a sufficiently accurate location for. If he deployed analagous systems, it wouldn’t overcome the effects of our systems used defensively as their containerised weapons would not miraculously find ours. If anything it would reinforce his own security.

The point is to make him think twice so he doesn’t kick off in the first place.

New systems also tend to be more precise and cause less collateral damage, though whether that is a good thing or not depends on your point of view and, whilst I accept that, I don’t see it as a reason not to innovate. The Argentine armed forces have barely managed to innovate at all over the last 34 years, and the technological overmatch that could be brought against them now would make a land campaign a very different position to 1982.

June 4, 2016 5:29 pm

Dropping by as it’s been a particularly good project so far (wotcher, Jed!) I’ll hit the points as they go by, apologies for not engaging more directly with some of the very interesting tangential discussions (thanks so much also, TD, for the link to the Ukraine lessons-learned paper. I am a sick bar steward who loves reading those kinds of documents. Matter of fact lately I have taken quite an interest in cycles of structural reform in Western militaries with emphasis on the Cousins and the French and have some lovely stuff (esp. American-related but also Les Froggies) including a wonderful now-PDF book from the Americans’ official source Center for Military History on the round of reforms prior to your mate Sullivan. Might even bestir myself with that stuff. I digress:

1) Yes: fundamentally there are real issues, even with massive consolidation (where you start paying a water-in-the-desert monopoly penalty rather than a too-small-to-compete penalty) with private-enterprise-driven defence design and production in mid-sized countries like the UK. There’s a point where the urge for stock valuation and the competing on a profit-and-loss basis for scarce resources is a drain on the ability to provide for national defence (rather than on a basis of employees many of whom might actually think “of country not of safety” as a certain brightly-trousered cavalryman once said, and in a case where you’ve distributed financial risk across an entire national fisc rather than a firm trying to look flush from one quarter to the next. Yes that first part may sound idealistic but it would be good to get back to that model and, since they’ve signed the Act, they’re easier to surveil if they’re just venal and greedy. In commerce that can be a feature, in a public establishment it’s ten to twenty at Broadmoor.)

2) Jesus Mary what the Sweet Fanny Adams. Out in 2018? Saint Gildas on a recce bike, people. What are they thinking? It’s not like there aren’t, say, *later increments of the same damned program* out there in use with the single largest navy with which the UK is allied and some of its other partners. *Headdesk*. You keep Harpoon on the T45s because that’s an inner, defensive layer for task groups and also lets singleton T45s protect themselves in places like Horn of Africa or the South Atlantic (there, properly targeted, it could wipe out what remains of the Armada Argentina’s surface fleet with one box launcher. Might even survive having an Achilles heel with submarines given Buenos Aires only has one available on alternate Tuesdays these days.) Then you can worry about a weapons system that “reaches out and touches.” On that I think the important thing is a dual-key system in the Mk41s. You take your infrastructure as you have it and either get a dual-key land-attack/very long range indeed ASM with Tomahawk improvements, or you turn a SCALP-N Nouvelle Generation into the equivalent. Otherwise it’s too many layers of design complexity. It’s lovely MBDA et al want to build something but frankly they’ve gone up their own arse on cost and complexity: too many potential customers will buy second-hand-extant or American, and the boutique capabilities are what get them into trouble on cost spirals and testing schedules anyway. Keep it simple. T45s are big burly goalkeepers for carrier groups (RN’s and others on loan) with world-class AAW and a perimeter ASM in Harpoon or something else in a box. T26s and SSNs need something that will hit over long distances before that’s an issue, “out-gunning” enemy task groups or switching the key over to land attack.

As for subs, well I will get into the tangents a little here. That’s the way to go: six Astutes as-is which is lots of capability for “pure” SSNs out there somewhere under the waves. Then three of a different, modified design with CMC (Britannia/Barham/Broadsword?) to ride along with carrier groups packing lots of missiles and other capabilities in those launchers (from some of the robotic goodness others have suggested to compartmented SF minisubs.) Then three — yes, I said three, yes I think you can still run a cycle with them if you have two crews per vessel and are assuming that by the 2050s you probably want to rethink your nuke delivery system as it is so wearing them out in 20-25 years with heavy use is acceptable in order to maintain CASD — boomers. That’s twelve subs in a more dangerous age and a good mix.

3) Anti-tank overwatch: desperately needs to happen, doesn’t need a separate vehicle any longer. Well, the trend back towards gun-only IFVs like Puma has made it a necessity but frankly it’s a dumb trend. Mount Javelin on Ajax, that’s a no-brainer. They can overwatch themselves and since they are in effect a light cavalry tank rather than a little armored sneak-and-scoot with a self-defence weapon like Scimitar was, it makes sense to have more punch. Then, and this may seem a little odd, put a CROWS-style Javelin launcher on MIV.

Follow me on that second point. One of the points of MIV is to have reasonable protection, and more internal room for infantry, in something that may not be as all-terrain as Warrior (old or WCSP), but with decent (at least vaguely similar) armour levels and crucially the ability to nip around the battlefield quickly. I believe the current layout of the armoured bdes is actually a good one and should be kept bc it’s about building battlegroups. If you have a battlegroup with one (or, ideally, two) Chally 2 squadrons and two Warrior WCSP companies (the latter enhanced with a mixed maneouvre-support platoon as it is), they are going to be the tracked-armour glacis up front, moving across all terrain types and punching their way through. You would also have that battlegroup with a company (enhanced like the Warrior ones) in MIV, so they can move quickly to whatever points in the battlegroup’s space they’re needed to deliver infantry and, in this case, before they’ve even dropped off the knuckle-draggers, provide point defence/offence with hull-mounted Javelin. Now, over in the “Strike” (echhh) brigades, you should have Ajax as your light cavalry tank and then you’d have Javelin hull-mounted already in this scheme. But your unit also lacks the big guns and may operate in areas where weather or ROE affects how much you can just fast-mover the **** out of the opposition. So, as an anti-armour hedge and also to hit structures, provide shrapnel damage against moving light infantry, or mousehole buildings in towns and villages, you have MIV up next as your well-armoured infantry carrier and missile launcher. Seems like a good scheme.

4) More rockets definitely. Standard formation for front-line artillery regts ought to be (under Army 2020 2.0):
Armoured brigade: 3×8 AS90, 1×8 MLRS and whatever heavy bar steward comes after
“Strike” brigade (again, shivers): 3×6 M777 (trading up because the line’s still hot, it’s British, and they should have kit that will haul and provide logistics adequately), 1x 6 Exactor
Standardized quick-reaction brigade (16AAB and 3Cdo, again I favour “square” with the fighting bns all the same size, one Para, two all-terrain air assault from converting The Rifles as a regiment to that role, one RM Commando): 3×6 120mm mortars on UOR (a little less range than the dear old Light Gun but more weight of shell and similar ROF, a little lighter to manage and in their role if properly utilised you’re going to be shelling close to your own forward edge anyway) and 1×6 M777 with attention given to the new generation of assisted or directed shells, for some heavy punch but not a whole regiment’s worth that would be a suck on brigade weight and logistics.

5 and 6) Pure TD goodness ;) Out of them I do, still, particularly like taking an A400M or C17 and using it as a mothership to launch a mother******* load of airborne nasties. Very nice graphics also :)

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 6, 2016 12:52 pm

Jackstaff, I think we binned the 155m for light forces (LIMAWS-G) when someone worked out how many rounds would be needed by a battery or troop in remote/dispersed locations and worked out it was far less efficient than 105mm and we didn’t have the rotary winged lift to support it. Obviously 155mm is better for a lot of other scenarios and there has been some training of RA personnel on French GIAT Caesar systems. Given that it’s a capable system (albeit not AFAIK Chinook deployable) and we’re cozying up with the French, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a regiment’s worth purchased for contingencies (or rapidly UOR’d off the French if circumstances merit it).

June 6, 2016 4:42 pm


Thanks for reminding me of Caesar, it is indeed a good system. And I see your point about keeping the Light Gun as the longer-ranged tube weapon (at least a battery’s worth) in the genuinely light formations like 16AAB and 3Cdo. They do need to keep their footprint down as much as possible. For the “strike” brigades, however, which will be airportable-when-necessary light-mechanized/motorised brigades, my thinking was they should have the infrastructure to support a heavier weapon and the occasional need for one in their mission sets. It gives more punch to a formation that may need it, stays relatively simple, and buys British (not only British, but a weapon that’s quietly been something we talk about wanting quite a lot around here, a huge export success with the English-speaking militaries of the world.) But I’d agree with you on reflection about keeping L119 with the light blokes (I’d still like them to combine 120mm mortars and the ranged 105mm, it seems best to suit the kind of fights they’re most likely to get into.)

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 6, 2016 6:22 pm

Good points Jackstaff. A “new” 120mm mortar like the rifled French Hotchkiss Brandt that the USMC recently adopted would bring a lot to the mix, as would automated/vehicle mounted systems like AMOS. The 120s lethality, partly a factor of its more vertical trajectory is not to be sneezed at, although, like the 105 vs 155mm gun/howitzers it does lose out in efficiency of suppression vs the 81mm (in Afghanistan some US mortar platoons operating in fixed locations alternated between 60, 81 and 120mm tubes to provide the required level of effects). You can have unguided projectiles out to 8.2km and a (developmental) GPS/INS round to 17km. The British proprietary 105mm as far as I know does not have the option to use the semi-precision guided fuzes and does not have an EXCALIBUR equivalent. However, it has a very effective and long ranged shell c/o DENEL IIRC. which pushes the range out to 20.6km (if I’m not conflating two pieces of information). I would think the 105 could react faster than the 120mm mortar given its automatic pointing system and would presumably be more accurate in poor met conditions than the 120 mortar, but I’ll leave that discussion to the experts (of which there are lots on here!). Given that they are now now exclusively used to fire guided rockets with even longer ranged ones in prospect, I can no longer see the reason to maintain a tracked MLRS fleet and would replace at least some of them with HIMARS which would be far better for light forces deployment, other than in really dire terrain (Falklands).

June 7, 2016 8:28 am

The problem with 155mm is ammo logistics, when studies were done many years ago on 155 for light forces that was the killer. Not forgetting that UK doesn’t use L119 (they were only used at the Sch of Arty for training while ammo stocks lasted). L118 uses the Abbot type ammo with a max rg of some 17.2 km.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 7, 2016 9:32 am

If memory serves, a battery of FH70 were deployed on a 3Cdo arctic training ex in Norway in the mid 80s and demonstrated exactly that issue. Feeding the guns with ammo tied up most of the CHF air assets at the expense of shifting AD, infantry Cos and logs.

Rocket Banana
June 7, 2016 10:22 am

Whilst we’re talking about 105mm, does anyone know why the FV433 Abbot SPG is no longer in service?

Is a Vector towed L118 a better solution to light artillery?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 7, 2016 10:46 am

Obsvr should have the definitive reason. But given that it’s been out of service for approx. 25 years, I’d suggest a combination of standardisation on 155mm for SPG (AS90) – if you’re already using a SPG, your ammo comes via accompanying DROPS, so less of a logs burden than on lift assets and the disappearance of the 3rd Shock Army, the USSR and all those baddies.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 7, 2016 11:56 pm

The US M119 series can reach 17km with the new M1130A1 HE PFF BB projectile. i think that’s probably very similar to the UK L50 which is apparently good for 20.6km. However, (and I can almost hear the howls of derision) the US have a rocket assisted projectile, the M913, that can reach out to 19.5km, though presumably with dubious accuracy.

June 8, 2016 12:14 pm

Hello Jackstaff ! Long time no speak, by flag hoist of course…… Ok just finished Bernard Cornwwell’s Waterloo (it is that time of year) so went back and re-read this and now I have some questions and harebrained schemes of my own…..

TD – ok Dear Leader I understand your point about Brimstone. Would Brimstone 2 from MML on an armoured MAN SX be good enough rather than on a tracked armoured vehicle ? 10km range ground launched ??

Rocket Artillery – ref my previous comment about not proliferating different types. Well the IMI 160mm looks interesting, 40km with two 13 round packs again on a MAN SX type truck BUT question on logistics. If a follow on truck can carry two pods, and two more pods on a trailer; how many rounds of 155mm with charges could be delivered by same truck on DROPS type racks ? 50, 100, 150 ? So a CEASER type 155 with 52 caliber barrel again on the ubiquitous MAN truck with armoured cab might be less of a burden logistically ?

The Multi-Mission Launcher – the US MML is looking cool. Although developed primarily for air defence (even the Hellfire launch was at a drone) and we will have VL CAMM I wonder if it could meet TD’s requirement for a flat rack mounted trainable launcher ? It can fire Hellfire then it can fire Brimstone. How about Spike NLOS / Exactor ? Going into harebrained territory how about Sea Venom ? Does the RA have a use for 24 -30km range IR guided missile with datalink, or is that too close to Exactor ? MML on the back of a CB90 with Sea Venom and Brimstone

June 8, 2016 1:14 pm


Sorry, I never got back to you on the civilian protection thing. Basically nothing has changed in the interpretation of IHL (which is mostly the GC and Additional protocols), so there is no sudden crackdown on this sort of thing – it has always been prohibited. The fundamental requirement of IHL is that civilians are protected, and the considerations you must achieve are the Law of Armed Conflict 4 pillars of Military Necessity, Distinction, Proportionality and Humanity (easy way of remembering that is MDPH – Moral Decisions Prevent Hague). If you deliberately conceal military forces within a civilian environment, in such a way that civilians are at risk of attack, you breach IHL. However, if you do so without placing civilians or civilian infrastructure at risk it may be permissable – go back to the four fundamentals. Examples of the former would be concealing a missile launcher in a truck that follows a civilian convoy, or placing said truck in a civilian truck stop or town centre where it it likely that the enemy are looking for it and would try to destroy it. Placing your forces alongside civilians in the hope that the enemy doesn’t target you (because of course, he will be following the GC as well!) would also be a breach – you are basically using human shields. If the Argies deliberately used civilian buildings (with civilians inside?) as ‘protection’ from attack, I would consider that to be a violation of IHL. Maybe there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, or else deemed not to be in the wider public interest to prosecute.

Military necessity could see you using civilian buildings for cover during an advance, the principal being that by doing so you are removing a threat to civilians and are pursuing a necessary, distinct military objective with full regard for the humanity issues so caused and using proportionate force. Therefore damage to or the loss of certain buildings is not ‘illegal’. As an example, assume you have to remove enemy combatants from structures such as water pumping stations, sewage works, hospitals, power stations etc. You are pursuing a military objective. Military necessity might require you to flatten the hospital as it contains an enemy C2 node. However, humanity might require you to leave well alone, as to destroy it would inflict substantial suffering on the civilian population. You may also be unable to distinguish your targets sufficiently from the surrounding civilian infrastructure. The result? Find a way to achieve your effect without breaching LOAC, so in this case you might jam communications, knock out the power temporarily, isolate the building or else re-take it by hand-to-hand fighting. If flattening it and causing casualties is the only way to avoid a massive humanitarian catastrophe, it can still be authorised but would be a tough sell, and is likely something to be approved only by a Minister.

That might seem complex and unnecessarily restrictive, but these are the established Laws of War and to violate them would be to lose humanity in conflict. It’s also well understood and accepted in all aspects of military operations – we train for it all the time.

Your example of moving light guns in containers into the Balkans is a good example of deception where civilians were not placed at risk.

Even in full scale warfare we should still abide by IHL. We may be prepared to take more risk on some ideas for concealment and deception, but we must still abide by the law.

Final point – IHL does require that combatants are identifiable. So there is no specific requirement, but it’s why we wear uniform and drive green trucks or warships with flags and pennant numbers. We also identify ourselves as British – every individual in combat uniform has (or ought to have) a Union Flag on their uniform somewhere – this goes beyond LOAC in some cases but is a general principle. AP2 lays down the legal basis for non-international armed conflicts where the belligerents may not necessarily be identifiable, thus allowing us to operate in environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq against insurgents. Finally, consider that medics, chaplains, ICRC and other individuals, as well as civilians, are exempt from combatant status and should be protected; equally, however, they cannot be combatants themselves.


June 15, 2016 12:10 pm

So it appears based on General Sir Mikes’s evidence to Parliament that Aemy 2025 will be a true paper tiger, the result of a truly incoherent plan based simply on what we already ordered and what we can buy the fewest of. Ajax FRES SV’s as “medium armour” for Strike Brigades is mind boggling when TD’s comments about anti armour “over watch” or just anti-armour provision full stop is taken into account. A weak Chally 2 upgrade which will do nothing to address the lack of its main guns lethality against potential high end threats, but the Ajax remains one of the only modern AFV designs with no armoured box on the turret side for ATGW ! The Strike Brigade is going to be a real fudge of tracks at the heavy end of medium, requiring flat bed “tank transporters” compromising the theatre mobility of what will mostly be wheeled brigades on Mastiff / MIV, MRV-P, trucks…….

Meanwhile Rheinmetal unveils the 3 tonne 130mm gun, how long until there is a Leopard 3 with new turret for it ? Doesn’t matter, our infantry Javelin teams will have the latest in body armour !!

Peter Elliott
June 15, 2016 12:29 pm

Agree that the Army is beginning to look seriously under capitalised compared to the Navy and Air Force. The implications of the Ukraine conflict (both political and technical) appear not yet to have trickled through to actual investment decisions.

July 12, 2016 8:12 pm

TD, Kongsberg and Lockheed are partnering on a VLS version of JSM (meaning that it will have an added booster). Hence this

” be fired from a Mk41, and if we want NSM to be so, we would have to pay, not quite the ideal for an interim weapon” is overpessimistic.

… reading on (and as life is full of uncertainties, started from dessert, ie. the hairbrained ideas)

July 12, 2016 8:36 pm

Increment 2, harebrained elevated plaforms have not quite been forgotten as the Finnish army uses the Leguan 160 elevated platforms for ambushing attack helicopters from amongs tree tops:


January 11, 2017 10:35 pm

The mast-based ATGM does seem a bit harebrained – much better surely to extend a small mast with a sensor, and then use vertical launch missiles from the body of the vehicle?

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