Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Family of Missiles for the Infantry


Man-portable and vehicle-mounted Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) have shown value across the combat spectrum.  Even in conflicts without significant armor threats, these missiles have been used as long-range bunker busters and anti-personnel munitions.  Uday and Qusay Hussein reportedly died in their house under an intense TOW barrage.

Uday and Qusay Hussein's house under attack by TOW missiles

ATGMs also form the cornerstone of anti-armor capabilities for light and medium units, and significantly enhance the anti-armor firepower of heavy units.


The US Army has been stuck in a missile rut for some time now.  After the failures of EFOG-M and Netfires/NLOS-LS, the Army appears content to produce minor updates to Javelin and TOW anti-tank missiles.

However other countries, notably Israel, have moved on in dramatic fashion.

The Rafael Spike family of missiles has expanded to include five distinct variants.


Rafael Mini-Spike

Mini-Spike launcher and missile tubes

Designed to be carried and operated by one soldier, with another carrying reloads, this missile was designed to attack light structures and personnel.  A HEAT warhead could be developed to defeat light armor.   With a range of up to 1,200m, Mini-Spike could have been an interesting "guided RPG-7".  Development was discontinued.

Spike SR

Spike SR

Spike SR was designed to supplant or replace unguided, disposable munitions like the AT-4.  With a range of 1,500m and a light, semi-disposable CLU, it can be issued as a unit of ammunition to any personnel, rather than just to dedicated anti-tank personnel. It uses IR-based, Fire-and-Forget guidance, with a direct-attack, tandem, HEAT warhead (~105mm diameter).  It's direct-attack mode probably means it will have difficulty penetrating the thickest armor of the most capable MBTs out there, but side and rear attacks should be very lethal. 

Think of it as a 1.5km-range, fire-and-forget, RPG-29.

Spike MR/LR

Spike MR/LR launcher plus missile mockup

Spike MR is roughly equivalent to the US Javelin missile.

Spike LR uses the same missile as Spike MR but adds a fiber optic cable to permit "Lock On After Launch" (LOAL) and "Fire-Observe-Update" targeting modes, in addition to Fire-and-Forget.  Both use a top-attack profile to defeat MBT frontal armor.

The Spike MR/LR CLU is heavier than the latest Javelin CLU, but includes a tripod.

A new version, Spike LR2, increases its range to 5.5km (ground launched), 10k (air launched), adds improved IR and daytime seekers, a multi-purpose warhead option, an RF datalink option, and networked remote missile handoff. 

Spike ER

Spike ER launcher

Spike ER is the TOW-sized variant in the Spike lineup.  However, it has nearly twice the range of TOW (8km vs ~4.5km for TOW-2 Aero) and the same LOAL/Fire-and-Forget/Fire-Observe-Update targeting modes of Spike LR, due to its fiber-optic cable.  The missile itself is somewhat larger and heavier than TOW.    It has both anti-structure and anti-armor warheads and uses a top-attack profile to defeat MBT frontal armor.

Spike NLOS

Spike NLOS

Spike NLOS is a 25km range anti-armor/anti-structure missile with the same flexible targeting modes as Spike ER and Spike LR, but uses an RF datalink instead of fiber-optics.  In theory, this means it's more susceptible to jamming and RF interference, but in practice it's unclear how problematic this is.  Advanced antenna designs and signal processing can improve resistance to jamming significantly. 

All of the missiles above, with the exception of Mini-Spike, are in production and in use around the world. 

Proposal #1 - Guided Light Anti-Armor Weapons (GLAWs)

Develop a new family of man-portable missile (Guided Light Anti-Armor Weapons - GLAWs).  All would use a mix of guidance options to hit specific price points and capabilities.  These might include,

  1. Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS - from Predator SRAW)
  2. RF-command  guidance (SACLOS, preferably TOW 2-compatible), 
  3. IIR/EO with  LOAL/Fire-and-Forget/Fire-Observe-Update options.
All GLAWs would interface with an improved Javelin CLU as well as a common, very light, semi-disposable CLU using cell phone camera technology.

The family includes a Light, Medium, and Heavy weapon.

GLAW VariantsLightMediumHeavy
Supplements/SupplantsM72 LAWAT-4/8, MAAWs, Urban Assault WeaponPredator SRAW
Diameter (mm)7090105-140
AUR Weight (kg)2-4~8~10
Range (m)>600 (PLOS/SACLOS)
1500m IIR
1500 1500
WarheadsHE, HEAT, ASMHEDP, Tandem HEAT, ASM Tandem HEAT, Bunker Buster, Top Attack
Penetration (mm RHAe)>300>600>1000 (HEAT) or Top Attack

* PLOS - Predicted Line-of-Sight, SACLOS - RF Semi-Active Command Line-Of-Sight

All GLAWs can be fired without the CLU using PLOS-only guidance, or with the CLU with PLOS or SACLOS guidance.

These weapons would supplant MAAWS, AT4 and lighter LAW rockets.  One could argue Javelin covers the requirement for the large weapon, but it is a very expensive munition, and requires an expensive CLU.  Javelin systems are only issued two or three CLUs per company.

On the other hand, GLAW can be issued down to the squad, fire-team level, and has a wide variety of effects, including anti-tank, and anti-structure.

In addition to man-portability, GLAW is a useful addition to light vehicle armament.

A multi-round, GLAW box launcher can be built for CROWS Remote Weapon Stations on Strykers and other vehicles to give them a multi-shot, intermediate-range, anti-bunker, anti-armor punch.

Mini-Typhoon RWS with Spike missiles
Ideally the box launcher would support combinations of small, medium and large missiles and/or Javelin LR (e.g. 4 x small and 1 x large/Javelin).

Proposal #1 - Javelin LR

Javelin launch

Enhance the existing Javelin CLU to fire an updated missile with a fiber optic cable for LOAL/Fire-Observe-Update guidance, and increased range. Add ability to fire GLAWs from the Javelin CLU.

Javelin has already demonstrated an enhanced, 4km range using the existing CLU and missile, so 4-5km should be the goal for Javelin LR.

Proposal #3 - TOW ER

TOW missile family

Develop a new missile that fits in the existing TOW missile tube, to be fired from an enhanced version of the existing TOW CLU.   This missile would add a fiber-optic cable to permit the Spike LR/ER guidance modes, and top attack capability.  If possible, add the ability to fire GLAWs as well from the new CLU.   Ideally the new CLU would retain the ability to launch existing TOW missiles.

Proposal #4 - JAGM NLOS

Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM)

JAGM is meant to eventually replace Hellfire in US service, but apparently won't bring a large increase in effective range, at least not Increment 1.  It appears to be closer to the MDBA Brimstone missile, using combined MMW and SAL guidance.  

Perhaps an Increment 2/3/4 variant could use larger wings, and an IIR/SAL seeker, combined with an RF datalink to provide a missile with similar capabilities to Spike NLOS.  A ground-based, vertically launched system might give us a cheaper version of the ill-fated NLOS PAM.  Forget the fancy networking extreme range for now.  

NLOS PAM test launch

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pimp my IBCT

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) recently conducted multi-think tank exercise entitled "HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? ALTERNATIVE DEFENSE STRATEGIES".

In it, they enlisted the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the CATO Institute,  Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to weigh in on alternative strategies and force structures for the US Military.

Each team presented a set of force level changes for each service, and the CSBA compared them to the current baseline plan.

For the Army, most teams significantly cut the number of Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) in the force model.

Most also increased the number of heavy ABCTs, reflecting their renewed emphasis on conventional conflicts.

However, if we look at the resulting structures, IBCTs still comprise a significant portion (9-12 IBCTs out of ~30 total) of the overall Army force model.

So I got to thinking, what can we do to make these units more strategically relevant?

Capabilities and Limitations


As seen in red, IBCTs are primarily foot-mobile.  They have a limited number of vehicles, primarily for movement of heavy weapons, logistics, and equipment.  They also have far less protection and firepower than SBCTs or ABCTs.

So how do we improve this, without eliminating the benefits of strategic deployability and without breaking the bank?


The IBCT's limits are primarily in tactical mobility, protection and firepower.

Tactical Mobility and Protection

During the wars in Afghanistan we produced a large number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs).   Eventually we settled on the Oshkosh M-ATV as our primary MRAP, producing over 8,700 for the various services.

Oshkosh M-ATV with Objective Gunner Protection Kit (OGPK)

With the wind-down of these wars, many of these vehicles are being sent back to Oshkosh for reset and upgrades.  The Army alone intends to keep over 5,600.

Oshkosh has continued to produce new models, including Ambulance, Mortar and Assault variants.

Oshkosh M-ATV variants
As part of the refurbishment/reset process, let's take the M-ATVs we have and convert them to a set of vehicles suitable for permanent issuance to some or all of the non-airborne IBCTs.

Convert some of our current short wheel base variants to the long wheel base Assault, Ambulance and Mortar vehicles.  This would obvious require a more extensive rework, but since most of the components are the same, it should be significantly cheaper than buying new vehicles.

The Assault variant can serve as the IBCT's wheeled APC.  Call it an M-APC (MRAP Armored Personnel Carrier).

M-ATV Assault
Yes, M-APCs will be less mobile and and less well protected from direct fire than a Stryker or Bradley, but we aren't trying to duplicate the SBCT.  We're trying to improve the firepower, protection and mobility of the existing IBCTs at a much lower cost.

The IBCT battalion organization can morph to something more like the SBCT battalions, with the Weapons Company providing drivers and gunners for the M-APCs.


Each M-APC can carry an Objective Gunner Protection Kit (OGPK) turret, housing up to three weapons.

These weapons can include a .50 cal M2 machine gun, a 40mm Mk19 Grenade Launcher, or a 7.62mm M240 machine gun.  There's even a variant that can carry a TOW missile launcher.

GPK with TOW and secondary armament

The addition of up to 14 x .50 cal and Mk19 grenade launchers per IBCT company greatly improves its firepower over just a handful of M240s and 60mm mortars.

M-ATV Mortar variants can carry 120mm or 81mm mortars, to supplement the hand-carried 60mm mortars.

Additional Javelin launchers can be carried to provide anti-armor capabilities.

Strategic Mobility 

Clearly, adding a bunch of 14-16.7 metric ton vehicles to the IBCT will reduce its strategic deployability... assuming you bring along the unit's organic vehicles.

However, given the number of M-ATVs we already own, we can produce additional IBCT sets relatively inexpensively, and preposition them around the world.  Buy a number of RoRo-style Maritime Preposition Ships to house and store these "extra" IBCT sets.  These MSC-operated vessels are relatively inexpensive to buy or lease.

M/V Craigside

The IBCTs can train at home with their organic equipment set.  When it's time to deploy, they can rapidly move via airlift without vehicles, and fall in on an IBCT vehicle set delivered to a local, friendly port via pre-positioned RoRo.

Each SBCT requires around 330 Strykers.  Assuming the same number of M-ATVs are required per IBCT, we could convert the planned stock of 5,600 M-ATVs into up to 16 IBCT sets.

If we convert half of the baseline IBCTs (seven out of 14) to this new organization, we could convert/purchase an additional seven IBCT sets to preposition near potential hotspots around the world.  

The remaining seven IBCTs can maintain their "lightness" and/or airborne qualifications for those rare situations where we actually need an "LBCT".  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On Phasers and Photon Torpedoes

Multiple, recent papers from the Navy think tank community1 has espoused the benefits of solid state lasers (SSLs), electromagnetic rail guns and hyper velocity projectiles (HVPs) to increase the magazine depth of Navy ships when defending against cruise and ballistic missile strikes.

Laser Weapon System aboard USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in November 2014 (05).JPG
LaWS on Ponce

However none of these technologies has come close to shooting down even simulated cruise missiles.  At best SSLs have shot down small, light weight UAVs.


Current HVP programs haven't even done this.  They are still heavily in the research phase.

The one exception is the OTO Melara Strales/DART program, which appears to be far closer to production.  However, it is purely a Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) replacement.   It's unclear to me how many successful tests of this system have occurred.

Image result for strales dart
OTO Melara Strales 76mm gun

Image result for strales dart
OTO Melara DART munition

Before we "bet the farm" on the transformational power of SSLs and HVPs to allow our ships to penetrate the peer A2/AD zone, maybe we should ask them to shoot down a few representative threats first.  And then do so under operational conditions, with multiple inbounds and inclement weather.  

Until then, they're just science fiction.

Image result for phasers pew pew

1 "Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress",


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Have to start somewhere

Yes, nothing here yet. Time and a general lack of unique content has prevented me from posting anything.