Tag Archives: missiles

The B-3 Nuclear Capable Bomber

In a 1994 live fire exercise near Point Mugu, California, a B-2 drops 47 individual 500 lb (230 kg)-class Mark 82 bombs, which is more than half of a B-2's total ordnance payload.. Image from wikipedia

The US Air Force wants to to build a new long-range strike bomber. The B-3, as it is likely to be named, will be a nuclear-capable aircraft designed to penetrate the most sophisticated air defences. The contract [that would be signed by the  US Air Force and  a weapons company] itself will be worth $50 billion-plus in revenues to the successful bidder, and there will be many billions of dollars more for work on design, support and upgrades. The plan is to build at least 80-100 of the planes at a cost of more than $550m each.

The stakes could not be higher for at least two of the three industrial heavyweights… On one side is a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin; on the other, Northrop Grumman. The result could lead to a shake-out in the defence industry, with one of the competitors having to give up making combat aircraft for good.  After the B-3 contract is awarded, the next big deal for combat planes—for a sixth-generation “air-dominance fighter” to replace the F-22 and F-18 Super Hornet—will be more than a decade away. So Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, an aviation-consulting firm, believes it will be hard for the loser to stay in the combat-aircraft business. ..

Usually in a contest of this kind, particularly this close to its end, a clear favourite emerges. Industry-watchers rate this one as still too close to call. That is partly because the degree of secrecy surrounding what is still classified as a “black programme” has remained high. Only the rough outlines of the aircraft’s specification have been revealed. It will be stealthy, subsonic, have a range of around 6,000 miles (9,650km) and be able to carry a big enough payload to destroy many targets during a single sortie. …

The target for the plane to come into operation is the mid-2020s—if possible, even earlier. In part this is because of fast-emerging new threats and in part because the average age of America’s current bomber fleet, consisting of 76 geriatric B-52s, 63 B-1s and 20 B-2s, is 38 years. Keeping such ancient aircraft flying in the face of metal fatigue and corrosion is a constant struggle: just 120 are deemed mission-ready. None of these, except the B-2s, can penetrate first-rate air defences without carrying cruise missiles—and the missiles are of little use against mobile targets.

In the kind of one-sided wars that America and its allies fought in the years after the September 11th 2001 attacks, such deficiencies were not a problem. But during that period China, in particular, has invested heavily in “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) capabilities. These include thousands of precision-guided missiles of increasing range that could threaten America’s bases in the Western Pacific, and any carriers sailing close enough to shore to launch their short-range tactical aircraft….A new long-range bomber that can penetrate the most advanced air defences is thus seen as vital in preserving America’s unique ability to project power anywhere in the world.

Excerpts from Military aircraft: Battle joined, Economist, May 2, 2015, at 55.

DARPA Long Range Anti-Ship Missile

lrasm. Image from http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/LRASM.html

From the DARPA website: Current surface-launched, anti-ship missiles face a challenge penetrating sophisticated enemy air defense systems from long range. As a result, warfighters may require multiple missile launches and overhead targeting assets to engage specific enemy warships from beyond the reach of counter-fire systems.  To overcome these challenges, the joint DARPA – Navy Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program is investing in advanced technologies to provide a leap ahead in U.S. surface warfare capability. The LRASM program aims to reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links, and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. Autonomous guidance algorithms should allow the LRASM to use less-precise target cueing data to pinpoint specific targets in the contested domain. The program also focuses on innovative terminal survivability approaches and precision lethality in the face of advanced counter measures…

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (LMMFC) Strike Weapons, Orlando, Fla., is the performer for the demonstration of the LRASM weapon, and BAE Systems, Information and Electronic Systems Integration, Nashua, NH, is the performer for the design and delivery of onboard sensor systems. In July 2, 2014 Lockheed Martin Corporation, Orlando, Florida, was awarded a contract for an amount not to exceed $200,000,000 for the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile Accelerated Acquisition program. he Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HR0011-14-C-0079).

The Missile Market: players

Javelin is the first "fire-and-forget" shoulder-fired anti-tank missile.  Image from wikipedia

Late last year (2013) Forecast International predicted that manufacturers will produce 200 000 anti-armour missiles worth $9.7 billion through 2022. The company said that combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have spurred anti-armour purchases by the U.S. and other militaries. Ironically, these missiles are not engaging tanks, but rather a host of other target types – from terrorist hideouts to unarmoured pickup trucks. Established market players have benefitted from this evolving trend, according to Forecast International.  “U.S. and Israeli firms still have the largest share of the anti-armour missile market,” said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s senior missile analyst. During this period, “Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Rafael will earn $2.8 billion selling anti-armour missiles to customers worldwide,” Dickerson said.

The market positions of these manufacturers have become increasingly intertwined. For example, Lockheed Martin has cooperated with Raytheon in the development and production – and marketing – of the FGM-148 Javelin man-portable anti armour missile system. The Javelin is the U.S. Department of Defence’s standard man-portable anti-tank guided weapon, and nearly a dozen nations employ it.

Meanwhile, new systems are emerging overseas. “Europe is working on next-generation systems to win back the market share it once had,” Dickerson said. These include the Missile Moyenne Portee (MMP) and the Missile Longue Portee (MLP), which will replace MILAN and HOT, respectively.

For its part, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is Israel’s leading anti-armour missile manufacturer. Against most expectations, Israel has slowly secured export production contracts for its anti-armour missiles and from an area once thought to present few opportunities – Europe. Rafael can count seven European countries as customers of its family of SPIKE anti-armour missiles, providing a stable production base for the company, according to Forecast International.

Companies are also working on new lightweight missiles that can perform various missions and demonstrate the blurring between different markets. “Missiles are slowly evolving, becoming more than just a weapon for use against tanks or aircraft or bunkers,” Dickerson said. “Eventually, the anti-tank missile market will cease to be an independent entity, becoming submerged in a larger strike weapons market.”

Excerpt from Shoulder launched anti-tank missile market worth $3.2 billion, defenceWeb, Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014

India’s Nuclear Capable Missiles

The successful launch of three missiles in the past week confirmed India’s readiness for strategic defence and that the country’s missile development and production capability have reached a high maturity level, observed V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister.  Talking to The Hindu soon after the launch of the nuclear weapons-capable Agni-II on Friday, he said the hat-trick of successes has proved the country’s capability to develop and produce missiles of any range and the possession of technology to meet any threat profile.  He said that Agni-II Prime surface-to-surface missile would be launched in November and the first flight test of India’s longest range strategic system Agni-V (5,000 km range) would be conducted in December. Besides, an interceptor missile test would also be held as part of the plans to put in place Ballistic Missile Defence system.

Y. Mallikarjun T.S. Subramanian, Launch confirms India’s readiness for strategic defence, the Hindu, Sept. 30, 2011

Wars of the Future, Weapons Technology

In the first few days of the Yom Kippur war in October 1973, Israeli armoured units were attacked by Egyptian forces armed with Soviet-made anti-tank missiles. The Israelis “suffered wholesale destruction”, according to an American Army manual written soon afterwards to help counter the weapon in question. There was not much that could be done. As the American guide noted, the missile system—called Sagger by Western forces—could be carried in a suitcase, launched and steered using a joystick to hit a target 3km (1.9 miles) away. It would then penetrate any vehicle armour in existence.

Tanks had been destroyed with weapons carried by foot soldiers before; America introduced its M1 Bazooka during the second world war. But never had infantry so decimated armoured vehicles. Of Israel’s roughly 2,120 tanks, about 840 were destroyed during the 20-day war. The era when “the tank was king” had ended, says Keith Brendley, head of Artis, an American firm that develops protection systems for military vehicles. Since then anti-tank munitions have become even more powerful, but steel armours have improved little. Now, however, aided with new materials and advanced sensors, a promising and eclectic array of alternative and often ingenious new forms of armour is emerging.

Anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) penetrate armour with a shaped charge. This explodes after the tip of the warhead has sunk into the target. The brunt of the blast is projected straight ahead, forcing a powerful spike of metal, usually copper, into and through the armour. Using steel alone, few vehicles today could carry enough armour to stop even an inexpensive RPG reliably.

To provide added protection, engineers have developed explosive-reactive armour. This involves covering parts of a vehicle with bricks of plastic explosives sandwiched between metal plates. When a warhead hits the outer metal plate, the explosives underneath (also specially shaped) detonate and force the sandwich to rapidly bulge as the plates move apart. This can shear the armour-piercing spike into bits, which are then less likely to pierce the underlying armour….

Does this mean armour is catching up with weapons technology? Hardly. Armour is getting better, but weapons are getting deadlier. Consider the Panzerfaust 3 (literally, “tankfist”), a shoulder-fired anti-tank guided missile that flies at more than 720kph (450mph). After striking its target, the exploding warhead shoots out a spike of copper at more than 7km a second (25,200kph) with enough energy to blast through a metre of steel, or any armoured vehicle used today, according to its manufacturer, Dynamit Nobel Defence. (Like many defence suppliers, it makes both weapons and anti-weapon systems.)

Moreover, some munitions can kill a tank crew without even penetrating the armour. A high-explosive munition known as “squash head”, fired by some British tanks, flattens a ball of plastic explosives against an armoured vehicle. It immediately explodes, transmitting a compression shock wave into the crew compartment, where it strips off “spall”—flakes of metal, some the size of a frisbee—that fly into occupants. Summing up the outlook for vehicle survivability, Stuart Wheeler, an armour expert at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England, says: “It looks grim.” Armour and vehicle designers, he says, are still looking for a comeback.

It may be on the way. On March 1st an RPG was fired at an Israeli tank patrolling near the Gaza Strip security barrier. A radar system on the tank tracked the incoming warhead, feeding data to a computerised gun that shot it down with a small burst of projectiles. Israel plans to deploy the system, called Trophy, more widely. Daniel Klein, an armaments official at the EDA, reckons that the foiled attack, probably the first of its kind, bodes well for defending military vehicles. An additional benefit, he believes, is that Trophy and other so-called “active protection” systems are lightweight. Some modern military vehicles have become so heavy with armour that their manoeuvrability is impaired and they are unable to use certain roads and bridges.

The new Iron CurtainIron Curtain, another active-protection system, has been developed for American forces by Artis. It uses radar and optical sensors to calculate the trajectory of an incoming warhead, and then intercepts it with a projectile fired from a roof-rack (pictured). The impact causes the warhead to combust before it hits the armour. Mr Lehniger, of Dynamit Nobel Defence, says that Iron Curtain and similar systems might be able to defeat his firm’s Panzerfaust 3 missile. If so, the achievement will be especially instructive to those who, decades ago, considered protecting vehicles to be a doomed endeavour.

Excerpt from The future of armour: The armour strikes back, Economist Technology Quartely, June 4, 2011, at 19

Who has the better Missiles, India or Pakistan?

Pakistan successfully test-fired a new short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, the Hatf-9, at an undisclosed location, the Defense Ministry said.  The firing of the missile with a range of just less than 40 miles was at sea, the Defense Ministry said in the written statement.  Hatf-9 is a multi-tube ballistic missile system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and intended to deter emerging threats and increase Pakistan’s short-range strategic weapons development program. It is a low-yield battlefield deterrent capable of inflicting damage on mechanized forces such as armed brigades and divisions, the statement said.

It comes after a test in March of a Hatf-2 surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 110 miles. The Ministry of Defense released a video — less than 1 minute in length — of the test firing. It showed the missile leaving the launch ship and hitting a target ship amidships, followed by billowing smoke.

In early February, Pakistan successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable Hatf-7, or Babur, cruise missile as “part of a process of validating the system,” a government statement said at the time. “Babur can carry strategic and conventional warheads,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Arthar Abbas said. Also, it has a 10-foot circular error point accuracy, tight enough for use in surgical strikes.

The missile — named after the 16th-century Muslim ruler Hair ID-din Muhammad Ba bur, founder of the Mughal Empire — reportedly flew approximately 370 miles.  Its range is reported to be 470 miles, which, analysts have said, would allow for the missile to be launched deep inside Pakistani territory and reach major cities in neighboring India. The range is politically significant because the missile was developed with an eye to defending Pakistan against India’s indigenously developed BrahMos cruise missiles.  The latest test firing drew reaction from Indian-based military analysts and government officials.

“Pakistan already has the long and medium-range Shaheen and Ghauri series of missiles, acquired with help of China and North Korea, to act as the delivery mechanism for strategic nuclear weapons,” a senior Indian official is quoted in the Indian media.”So, with this new missile, Islamabad seems to be looking at tactical nuclear deterrence against advancing enemy formations. But it is being foolhardy if it thinks nuclear weapons are war-fighting weapons,” he said.

India’s main cruise missile, the PJ-10 BrahMos, was first tested in 2001.  The BrahMos is jointly developed by Russia’s Mashinostroyenia and India’s BrahMos Corp. and has a ramjet cruise engine based on Russia’s supersonic anti-ship Yakhont missile. The BrahMos’s maximum speed is 2,100 mph — three times that of the Tomahawk.  BrahMos Aerospace said it received $4 billion of orders from the Indian military. The missile, with a range of around 180 miles, will be delivered to the army and navy over the next five years, with orders beyond that up to 2015 worth around $10 billion, a company statement said.

Pakistan tests latest defensive missile, UPI, April 22, 2011