In the mid-seventies of the last century, the US Army once again raised the issue of creating new engineering tools to combat enemy mines. Existing systems for this purpose, in general, did their job, but their actual characteristics were below the desired level. For example, tank the trawls were too slow, and the extended charges of the M58 MICLIC line were quite difficult to operate. Such means — allowing troops to advance — to a certain extent reduced the pace of the offensive. The troops were interested in getting some kind of system capable of quickly reaching a given area and then clearing the minefield in minimum time.
Engineering machine M130 SLUFAE at the site. Photo Shushpanzer-ru.livejournal.com
The needs of the army soon led to the start of a new development project. The new demining system could find application both in the ground forces and on navy. The latter was supposed to use new weapons to support naval landings. Quite quickly, the Marine Corps joined the program, which in the future was to become one of the main operators of the engineering machine. Also involved in the work of certain commercial enterprises of the defense industry, producing the necessary components.
The new project of the Pentagon proposed the construction of a self-propelled engineering machine based on one of the existing high-pass chassis. The latter should have been equipped with a special launcher for special rocket projectiles. The rapid destruction of mines in a given area was planned to be carried out using salvo firing rockets with a detonating space warhead. It was assumed that several powerful explosions on the ground surface could cause detonation or simple destruction of the inherent explosive devices.
All the main ideas of the new project were reflected in its name. The program as a whole was called the SLUFAE - Surface-Launched Unit - Fuel-Air Explosive (“Ground Launcher - charge of a volumetric explosion”). Self-propelled launcher received the designation M130. Special projectile with "mine" warhead called XM130. The inert version of the rocket was designated as XM131.
In order to save on the production and operation of the chassis for M130 decided to build on the basis of the finished sample. Most of the units were borrowed from the M752 self-propelled launcher from the MGM-52 Lance missile system, which, in turn, was based on the M548 multipurpose transporter design. Some of the elements of the finished car remained unchanged, while the armored body had to be redone and supplemented with some new units, in accordance with the new purpose of the car.
The new building received anti-bullet protection, allowing the use of the machine at the forefront. Internal volumes were divided into several main compartments. In front of the machine located engine compartment and crew jobs. More than half of the total length of the case occupied an open "body" in which there was a rocking launcher. In the stowed position, it partially descended between the sides, which to some extent improved the protection of projectiles.
View from a different angle. Photo Military-today.com
The General Motors 6V53T diesel engine with an 275 horsepower placed in the front of the casing was placed. With the help of a manual manual transmission, the torque was transmitted to the front-wheel drive wheels. The undercarriage consisted of five support rollers of average diameter on each side mounted on an independent torsion bar suspension. The design of the hull and propulsion allowed the machine to overcome water obstacles by swimming. In this case, the propeller was missing, and it was necessary to move by rewinding the tracks.
On the open cargo area, protected only by low sides, mounted launcher for unguided projectiles. She received an octagonal clip-case, inside of which tubular guides were fastened. The back of such a body was fixed on a hinge, and the front was connected with hydraulic cylinders. The latter ensured the lifting of the installation to the working position and vertical guidance.
Inside the common body were 30 tubular guides for unguided rockets. Each such device had an internal diameter of 345 mm. The internal channel of the guide did not have any rifling or other means of preliminary promotion of the rocket. To reduce the overall size of the package, large-diameter guide tubes were installed in several rows and formed a semblance of a honeycomb structure. It is for this reason that the entire assembly had a specific recognizable appearance.
The package of guides for 30 rockets could be guided only vertically, for which a pair of hydraulic actuators was used. Direct fire shooting was excluded: in any case, a certain elevation angle was required so that all guides would rise above the front compartment of the hull. It was proposed to carry out horizontal targeting by turning the whole car. The lack of accuracy of such guidance tools could hardly be considered a disadvantage. Scattering a large number of relatively powerful ammunition could improve the basic characteristics of the complex. Due to this, the demining system was able to cover a larger area with fire and make a larger passage in a minefield.
To manage the new machine M130 SLUFAE was a crew of four. On the march and during the shooting they were to be in a fairly close open cockpit in front of the hull. Due to the lack of automated means of loading, they had to leave the car to reload the launcher. This required the help of a carrier of ammunition and, if available, a crane.
Despite the large ammunition and high firepower, the M130 self-propelled launcher was not too large and heavy. The length of the machine reached 6 m, width - 2,7 m. Due to the large launcher, the height in the stowed position approached 3 m. The combat weight was determined in 12 t. per ton made it possible to obtain sufficiently high mobility characteristics. On a good road, the maximum speed reached 23 km / h with a power reserve of up to 60 km. The machine could overcome various obstacles and swim across reservoirs.
Installation at the time of the shot. Photo Shushpanzer-ru.livejournal.com
A new type of engineering vehicle was supposed to use rockets designed specifically to hit explosive devices in the ground. At the same time, the XM130 product consisted of several ready-made components that were mass-produced. The large cylindrical warhead of a 345 mm diameter missile was a BLU-73 / B FAE volume-detonating ammunition with a flammable liquid and a low-power charge for spraying it. For the detonation answered remote fuse. To the rear of such a warhead, the body of a Zuni unguided rocket with a solid-propellant engine was fastened, which was distinguished by a smaller diameter. On the body shank with the engine was a ring stabilizer.
The XM130 rocket had a length of 2,38 m with a diameter of the largest parts 345 mm. Starting weight - 86 kg. Of these, 45 kg accounted for the charge of the warhead. An XM131 training projectile was also developed. From the base product, it differed only in an inert warhead of equal mass. It should be noted that the XM130 and XM131 products were heavy enough for the Zuni rocket engine. As a result, both munitions were not distinguished by high flight characteristics. The flight speed reached only tens of meters per second, and the normal firing range was determined in 100-150 m.
The principle of operation of the XM130 rocket was quite simple. It was launched along a ballistic trajectory to a given mine site. At a height of several feet above the ground, the fuse gave the command to explode the spray charge. The latter destroyed the body of the warhead and sprayed flammable liquid over the surrounding space. Upon contact with air, the liquid instantly ignited, resulting in a volumetric explosion. Calculations showed that such an explosion at a low altitude would cause mines in the ground to detonate or collapse.
In 1976, the SLUFAE project participants built an M130 experimental engineering vehicle, and also prepared a stock of missiles with a detonating warhead. All these products had to go to the landfill and show their real capabilities. Upon receipt of high performance, the military could adopt a new complex. It was assumed that the mine clearance installation M130 SLUFAE will find application in the engineering units of the ground forces and marines. In addition, the possibility of creating a launcher for ships or landing craft was not excluded.
Already the first tests of the prototype led to ambiguous results. The M130 machine had high mobility and could arrive as quickly as possible in the area of combat work. Preparing for shooting and reloading after a volley for a new attack did not take much time either. In terms of operation, the complex was very convenient and simple.
However, the combat characteristics were very specific. It was confirmed that space-detonating charges with a mass of 45 kg are indeed capable of making passages in minefields. XM130 rockets were fired at various types of mine and explosive obstacles, organized with the help of various mines that were in service at the time. In all cases, such an attack ended with at least partial success. The vast majority of mines exploded or broke into pieces, losing performance. A salvo with dozens of rockets cleared a large area of land, but it did not leave behind large craters interfering with the passage of technology.
The process of loading missiles using a separate crane, February 8 1977. Photo by the US Navy / National Museum of the US Navy
If necessary, XM130 projectiles could be used as engineering ammunition to destroy enemy obstacles or objects. In this case, the SLUFAE machine became a specific version of the volley fire system with similar tasks, but with different firepower and other combat characteristics. It has been confirmed that space detonation charges can be effectively used against various structures or light fortifications.
It is curious that the authors of the project SLUFAE limited themselves to developing only two rockets, and only one of them was intended for combat use. Flue, incendiary, high-explosive or other warheads for XM130 missiles, as far as is known, have not been created. However, it cannot be excluded that they could appear later. At some point, the military could order new ammunition capable of expanding the range of tasks to be solved. However, this never happened.
During the tests it was found that the available ammunition does not have high flight data. The 86-kg XM130 rocket, launched from a ground-based launcher, proved to be excessively heavy for the engine from the Zuni product. As a result, the firing range of the demining plant did not exceed 100-150 m. This circumstance seriously complicated the combat use of the complex as a whole, and also limited its real capabilities. Moreover, difficulties could manifest themselves in solving any proposed tasks.
For firing, the M130 SLUFAE machine would have to go to the front. The lack of a powerful booking and an open cabin led to known risks. In addition, 30 missiles with flammable liquid were present on board, which further reduced the combat survivability. A single bullet or fragment, hitting a package of guides, was able to provoke a fire. And setting a sufficient reservation could impair mobility and other characteristics of the car.
In practice, the enemy’s obstacle depth could exceed the missile firing range. Because of this, the troops would have to use several vehicles in one area or lose the pace of the attack while waiting for reloading and a new volley of the same installation. In the case of firing at a stationary object of the enemy, the defeat task could be solved with just one volley. However, in case of a miss, the attack could also be delayed or require the work of several complexes.
Tests of the M130 SLUFAE prototype mine clearance plant continued until the 1978 year. During this time, military and defense industry specialists managed to comprehensively study the operation of equipment and its ammunition, determine the impact of a volumetric explosion on mines in the ground and above-ground structures, as well as conduct a number of other studies. Probably, some attempts were made to improve the main characteristics of the equipment, first of all, the firing range.
The original engineering means for overcoming the mine-explosive obstacles and destroying the enemy fortifications showed ambiguous characteristics. It coped well with its tasks, but in a real combat situation, the potential was sharply reduced, and serious risks appeared. Now the word was beyond the Pentagon. The commanders of the branches of the troops, who acted as customers of the project, were to decide its future fate.
American military leaders, after examining the results of tests M130, came to two main conclusions. First, they considered that the SLUFAE mine clearance installation in its current form is not of interest to the army, navy or marines because of the low real characteristics. It should not be adopted and put in the series.
At the same time, the principle of clearing minefields with several volumetric explosions was considered interesting and promising. Scientists and designers should continue to work in this direction and soon submit a new sample of this kind. The following demining system program is called CATFAE - Catapult-Launched Fuel-Air Explosive (“Volumetric Explosion Charge with Ejection Launch”).
The exact fate of the only M130 SLUFAE prototype installation is unknown. After completing the tests and closing the project, it could be sent for disassembly. However, he could still find application in the role of a test stand for advanced ammunition for a volumetric explosion. However, regardless of further events, up to our times, as far as is known, this car did not live. At a certain point it was disassembled as unnecessary, without becoming a transfer to one or another museum.
The need to quickly pass through the enemy’s minefields in the mid-seventies led to the start of the SLUFAE project. Soon a prototype of a specialized launcher and a significant number of missiles appeared. According to the test results, the military decided to abandon a promising engineering vehicle, but not the original principle of demining. The work was continued and even led to some results.
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