The company Lockheed Martin is working on a new version of loot ammunition, which will be a candidate for the priority program LMAMS
More stringent rules of engagement and the need to capture high-priority and rapidly passing targets in a complex or remote space determine the need for surgical precision of exposure with low indirect damage. Let us find out the role of the locking ammunition in this new paradigm.
The fast moving multiple targets in challenging environments, combined with stricter rules of engagement, necessitate tactical, high-precision, controlled exposure with a shortened sensor-shooter cycle with the goal of immediately identifying and hitting high-priority, rapidly passing threats with minimal indirect damage.
Regarding the possibilities that could satisfy these needs - especially as standard tactical units that can provide fire support from closed positions in order to reduce indirect losses - launched from the ground (and in the long run launched from helicopters) patrolling ammunition (BB) develops as an inexpensive and highly accurate “one-shot-one-hit” alternative to unguided artillery shells (and guided GPS-guided artillery shells) or free-falling bombs, paradise differs significantly faster response sequence / destruction compared to attack helicopters or military reconnaissance and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), whose capabilities are optimized for relatively free air space.
The British Department of Defense clearly classifies BB as “low-cost, guided, precision-guided munitions that can be in the waiting area for some time and quickly attack land and sea targets that are out of line of sight. The BB is under the control of the operator, who sees the image of the target and the environment in real time, which makes it possible to control the exact time, height and direction of attack of a stationary, moving or moving target, and also contributes to the formal processes of identifying and confirming defeat of the target.
Essentially, reconnaissance and strike capabilities are combined in patrol ammunition, they are distinguished by their ability to provide important reconnaissance information and / or locate and identify threats, and also have a high-precision impact on important, high-mobility / maneuvering and rapidly passing targets in some cases where there is a shortage in tactical reconnaissance and strike weapons. BB can work in difficult situations, including built-up areas, remote areas and melee scenarios, in which there is a high risk of defeating their troops and collateral damage, and where traditional artillery and rocket attacks are unavailable or unacceptable, including due to their combat load and trajectories. Barrating ammunition can also be deployed in accordance with the complex rules of engagement, when a small high-precision impact will be more effective than firing traditional artillery or expensive air-to-ground armor-piercing missiles or free-fall bombs.
“Among the most significant opportunities that the BB provides are confident human control of this type of weapon,” said a spokesman for Lockheed Martin. - Soldiers on the front line are given the opportunity to hit targets outside the line of sight, redefine targets during flight when detecting higher priority enemy vehicles after launch, and / or interrupt task execution when information changes or when the risk of indirect damage increases to an unacceptable level. The operator receives updated video in real time, which heightens awareness of the combat situation and simplifies quick decision making. ”
“If we talk about the cycle of the sensor-shooter, then the net gain here is that the BB is already present on the spot,” says a specialist at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). “After all, when looting, you have enough time to collect all necessary information about the target using the reconnaissance kit and, at the moment when the target is captured, the executive component is already in place and ready to destroy the target.” Therefore, there is a feeling of immediacy. You can say that you have this opportunity with an armed UAV, but this is the only device in the sky with all its vulnerability. For example, the same situation with the classic guided bomb, when the operator has little time to identify and confirm the target. And with BB, you have significantly more time to identify the target in a complex combat space, attack with high accuracy with a guaranteed reduction in indirect losses, as well as the termination of the mission if necessary. "
While the development of loot ammunition undoubtedly has roots in the field of UAVs, advocates of clear terms say that the BBs are missiles intended for loitering, and they are not a subclass of armed UAVs. However, many of the current capabilities of the BB are provided by developers of solutions for UAVs, and progress in optoelectronics, microsystems, communications, robotization, electric motors, battery capacity, and ground control station technologies is applicable to the development of both categories.
The development of portable BB, in particular, requires a “seal” of a significant number of systems — imaging devices, avionics, batteries, combat units, etc. - in a small volume. Solutions are often determined by the current level of miniaturization of components, and, despite the fact that currently small and lightweight components are available to meet the requirements of a combat mission, trade-offs are needed between size, weight, duration of flight, and capabilities while ensuring affordability and “disposability” of weapons .
The energy source is one of the determining factors, since advances in battery technology can increase the loitering time and reduce acoustic and thermal signs of visibility. The automotive industry with its electric vehicles and the start of a series of races on them called Formula E is considered as the basis for the development of battery technologies in the field of BB. In the United States, the Air Force Research Laboratory is working with a number of decision-makers on ammunition loot over a joint research agreement to develop this technology for less weight and cost and more power.
Prospective developments in the field of energy storage, especially in the field of electric propulsion technology, could provide significant potential for the development of BB systems, although so far not enough attention has been paid to this topic.
Progress in the accumulation of electric energy is currently mainly based on lithium-ion technology, although new chemical compositions are emerging, including lithium-sulfur and lithium-air batteries with potentially five to ten times higher energy density. Other technologies, such as supercapacitors, which are beginning to be used, in particular, in new-generation cars, are a promising alternative to meet the growing needs of energy storage systems. Supercapacitors, differing by their own mechanism of charge accumulation, can accumulate and release energy with relatively high intensity (substantially more than batteries).
A conceptual breakthrough was made by MBDA Missile Systems. This was mainly due to the combination of its energy storage technologies, materials and components for missiles as part of the Concept Visions 2012 project, which aims to create a concept for unmanned aerial weapons systems before 2035. The intellectual apotheosis of this process was the presentation of the Caelus system. The concept of an electric propulsion rocket, which has all-weather reconnaissance, information gathering and kinetic impact capabilities, which is designed to patrol in critical areas for two hours, after which it could capture the target directly or land in a safe area.
The concept of cajaram ammunition Caelus company MBDA Missile Systems
At the moment, there is no indication that MBDA plans to manufacture Caelus, although this concept of a rocket with an electric propellant is not written off by anyone, it is only stopped waiting for a breakthrough in electric energy storage technology.
IAI is at the stage of creating a light anti-burglary weapon system based on its Harop ammunition.
The rather old idea of unmanned, airborne ammunition gave rise to a number of specific BB solutions, which vary in size, range, and barrage times.
However, recent asymmetrical combat operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to some extent previous operations of the United States in Somalia, have given particular impetus to the development of small-sized, portable, one-time locking systems for delivering high-precision indirect fire, in particular combat operations tactical units.
At the beginning of 2010, the command of the special operations of the US Army, together with the command of the special operations of the US Air Force, discussed with the US manufacturing companies of patrols and patrol systems a portable solution, designated LMAMS (Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System), a lethal miniature air munition. In the final statement, this system is described as follows: “A portable, high-precision locking system, launched from the ground, operating out of direct visibility, standard for a small unit, which allows for the unprecedented defeat of the enemy and at the same time prevent their forces from falling under direct enemy fire. The LMAMS system must effectively hit day and night enemy personnel and non-standard vehicles, if necessary, quickly refocus ... quickly detect, track and hit priority and quickly passing targets or the enemy behind the ground folds without exposing the operator to the risk of being fired from small arms weapons».
The warhead of the LMAMS should have a "lethal effect on personnel in open areas and personnel in moving unarmored vehicles (sedans, pickups) with minimal indirect damage." All together, the launcher, ammunition, sensor and warhead must have a mass of less than 2,49 kg, and a length of less than 55,9, see. The flight duration must be more than five minutes, and the range of more than 3 km.
Subsequently, several systems took part in the tests of the American army, including AeroVironment Switchblade, IATech SkyStinger and Textron T-RAM. In April, the US Army Melee Weapon Systems Department of 2010 announced its intention to issue AeroVironment a contract for the supply of 10 Switchblade LMAMS for further evaluation, and in June 2011 of the year issued this company an initial contract worth 4,9 million dollars for urgent deployment of the system in combat units.
At that time, Switchblade (a development of the previous project of AeroVironment, a drone launched from a cannon), was probably the most mature candidate from a technological point of view. From the very beginning, it was developed under the direction of the Air Force Research Laboratory for the Special Operations Forces Command (USSOCOM). Obviously, with a mass of 2,72 kg, the Switchblade locking ammunition should have a flight time of 15-20 minutes, a range of 5 – 15 km and a diving speed of up to 161 km / h. It is controlled by a modified version of the same ground control station that manages the AeroVironment Raven, Puma and Wasp drones.
AeroVironment Switchblade Barrage Ammunition
For piloting and searching for targets, the Switchblade is equipped with front-facing and side-facing cameras plus a thermal imaging camera. Warheads weighing 0,3 kg with a laser remote fuse throws in the direction of flight at different altitudes (9 / 7 / 5 meters) over the target tungsten ready-made destructive elements. It is clear that the current order of the American Army provides for the supply of Switchblade systems with improved night-time capabilities, which are provided by the upgraded thermal imaging camera with doubled (10 megapixels) resolution compared to its predecessor.
Switchblade was, in fact, the first acquisition, in line with the LMAMS army requirements. The following steps in the framework of the requirements of LMAMS are closely looking at suppliers of solutions in the field of BB, both from the US and from other countries. The process is proceeding slowly, but so far the LMAMS program has not received a budget priority, which is necessary for its promotion as an official planned program.
To date, the army has released two requests for information: one in August 2012 of the year and its revised version in November of 2013. In it, she identified certain target characteristics that she hopes to achieve in the next version of the LMAMS systems. These include the flight time from 15 to 30 minutes and the range 5-10 km; In addition, this request for information states that “the system must have a lethal effect on personnel on the ground and personnel in moving light vehicles with minimal indirect damage.”
A source in the defense ministry said that the government “fought to increase the priority level of this LMAMS program; for this, the priority program and the requirements for it must fall into the so-called memorandum on the objectives of the POM program (Program Objective Memorandum) ”.
UVision says Hero 120 "appeared as a solution that meets a number of operational requirements defined by our customer"
The POM is a recommendation from the arms and defense organizations on how they plan to allocate resources for the program (s) in order to comply with the Defense Planning Guidelines. POM includes an analysis of the objectives, goals, alternative methods for meeting these goals, the allocation of resources, and the priority given to the programs included in it.
The representative of the defense department continued: “In a recent stories LMAMS priority was such that it did not fall into the POM memorandum. Until she enters the POM, the US government cannot spend money on this program. According to current estimates, the earliest when LMAMS can get into the POM is 2019 a year. The development strategy of the LMAMS program, up to the last six months, was to start production. It was believed that this technology is quite mature for all interested parties and therefore it is possible to round out and choose a winner with tests. When it was decided that the program would not be funded until the POM 2019, the program returned to the development strategy. That is, the procurement will be preceded by a development period. This increases the overall cost of the entire program. ”
In essence, it is companies that supply solutions for counterfeit ammunition and who are interested in the LMAMS program are currently investing and spending money from their domestic research funds not on their own solutions, but on developing what they should be like. LMAMS program.
He further noted: “With the exception of AeroVironment, which has already supplied the systems to the US government for the customer, none of the other potential members of LMAMS received any financial support from the state, that is, all this money from its own research funds.”
Among Western countries, probably, only the United Kingdom has a priority program for loot ammunition. MBDA received a request from the Ministry of Defense in 2008 for the urgent development of the BB system as part of its IFPA (Indirect Fire Precision Attack) high-precision ammunition research program.
In order to meet these requirements, MBDA proposed the Fireshadow system: a BB launched from the ground, designed to hit stationary, mobile and rapidly passing land and sea targets at a distance of about 100 km. With a mass of less than 200 kg and a length of up to 4 meters, the Fireshadow has an operational flight speed of 150-300 km / h, an operating height of 4500 meters and a patrol time of about 6 hours. In March, MBDA company 2012 supplied the initial batch of 25 systems, which were tested at the landfill this summer. The report of the National Financial and Audit Office for the main projects published in 2012 says that the system corresponds to the main characteristics of the BB, but its success rate is lower than desired. It says: "The responsible owner (the army) has decided not to deploy a weapon system for testing in Afghanistan, since its capabilities are not sufficiently developed from a technological point of view." In addition, the report notes that despite the cost of the BB program in the amount of 324 million dollars, the entire strategy of the IFPA program of the British Ministry of Defense is subject to revision.
The company MBDA reported that at the present time it is not conducting development on locking ammunition. A representative of MBDA said that “MBDA offers a wide range of weapons systems that accurately, timely and effectively have a lethal effect on the battlefield, both from various platforms and independently. At present, our customers are provided with all lethal means, and anti-burglary ammunition is not the opportunity they want, although we have the experience and technology in case such a need arises. ”
As technology improves, UVision intends to equip all its products with electric propulsion
The first sample of Aeronautics in the field of locking ammunition: Orbiter 1K
To be continued