RANGE, PRECISION, POWER
Актуальные публикации по вопросам военного дела. Воспоминания очевидцев военных конфликтов. История войн. Современное оружие.
Tank-Destroying Missile Systems: Supply Is Shaping Demand
In industrialized nations, tank-destroying missile systems (TDMS) hold a special place among attack and defensive weapons systems. In the course of the most recent local war conflicts, tank- destroying rocket-propelled projectiles (TDRPPs) had been successfully employed in attacks not only on tanks but also other targets, such as underground shelters and more types of reinforced targets. This provided an extra impetus for developers and manufacturers of weapons to create more perfect and efficient weapons systems in this category.
From generation to generation
Principal element of a TDMS is guidance unit, whose plane depends on where it belongs - to second- or third generation systems. Second-generation TDMSs are guided semi-automatically. The gunlayer, using a telescopic sight, only has to keep an eye on the target, while the missile is tracked and executive instructions produced automatically by a ground system. Second- generation TDMSs are represented by wire systems such as Dragon, TOW, Eryx, Milan, HOT and Red Arrow-8, as well as laser-guided missiles (Nimrod, Hellfire Swift). The chief disadvantage of second-generation TDMSs is that they are susceptible to natural noise (from dust or blast smoke) and jamming. This is particularly true for systems using laser for target illumination. One more weakness of TDMSs is the necessity for the operator to keep an eye on the target for as long as the missile is traveling to hit it.
Third-generation TDRPPs that use the launch-and-forget principle are free from inherent drawbacks of second-generation systems. The operator takes aim at a target and, having made sure that the guidance unit did lock onto the target, presses the "launch" button. The missile then flies unattended, i.e. without instructions from the guidance unit. Third-generation TDRPPs employ both infrared guidance units and radar homing heads. Among third-generation TDRPPs are helicopter-borne Hellfire,
Longbow, Javelin, Brimstone and more. At the same time, second-generation systems are cheaper as compared to next-generation systems, as in this case expensive control equipment, being accommodated on the launcher rather than the missile as such, is recoverable. Instead, third-generation systems with tandem-charge warheads have far improved mission capability.
Depending on their reach, TDMSs fall into three categories: short-range (500 - 600 m), medium- range (1,000 - 2,000 m) and long-range (3,000 to over 5,000 m).
The market for TDRPPs in the past few years has been stagnating. With the end of Cold War and the demand for heavy armored equipment reduced to zero, the market for tank-destroying munitions shrank dramatically. In expert opinion, the most severe blow has been suffered by related European programs. Nevertheless, in 2002 - 2003, faint signs of recovery could be seen in the market for TDRPPs. In the course of the most recent local war conflicts, anti-tank precision-guided missiles had been successfully employed in attacks on not only tanks but also other targets, such as underground shelters and more types of reinforced targets. US forces used helicopter-launched tank-destroying rocket-propelled projectiles Hellfire during military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq much fed US interest in thermobaric (space-charge) warheads. Hellfire missiles with thermobaric warheads proved well fit for street fighting in big population centers, where such missiles could be employed for attacks on entrenched positions, reducing side damage to the minimum. Weapons with warheads of this kind could be used in attacks on enemy forces hidden in mountainous caves, as was the case in Afghanistan. Those systems in the near future will probably be transferred to the category of general-purpose weapons for the elimination of major targets, not necessarily tanks. Apart from that, a pick-up in the market for TDRPPs stems from a number of countries having embarked on tank and armored vehicle upgrade programs.
The global market is currently witnessing some of its players being locked in the fight for contracts to supply new-generation light TDRPP systems to European armies, with US Javelin and Israel's Spike being the chief competitors. The Javelin is a medium-range TDRPP consisting of a missile housed in a disposable delivery-and-launch container, an infrared guidance unit with a matrix-type radiation detector, a discharger and a day-and-night sight used for battlefield monitoring. Thanks to low exhaust and "soft" launch, Javelin is fit to launch from restricted spaces. The projectile uses two target attack modes: diving mode (with an angle of dive of 45 degrees) and direct horizontal attack mode. Javelin is controlled by changing thrust vector, which provides the required maneuverability needed to kill the target from atop from low ranges. It is distinctive for high resistance to enemy electronic countermeasures.
Israel's Spike operates in two modes: unattended "launch-and-for-get" mode and "launch-and- observe" target surveillance mode. The projectile is offered in three versions: medium-range, long-range or extended-range. It is fitted with a tandem-charge warhead, which is guided
using a fiber-optical link and can fly to up to 8,000 meters. Spike is believed to have an advantage over the Javelin on the European market due to its lower price, which is four times cheaper than Javelin's. Spike's being deployed with one of the leading European armies, for instance, the British army, would open the gate for European manufacturers of equivalent technologies. For now, this projectile has been opted for by the military forces of Finland, Poland, Romania, Singapore and the Netherlands.
Russia has placed a premium largely on the export of the anti-tank precision-guided missiles Kornet and Metis-M, both offered to the market with tandem-charge hollow-charge or thermobaric warheads. In its performance parameters and price, the third-generation anti-tank guided missile Kornet-E - that can fly to distances of up to 5.5 kilometers and sells for $40 thousand - matches characteristics of the best-selling foreign equivalents. Controlled by a laser- ray unjammable system, Kornet-E is unique for its general-purpose capability. It is equally efficacious against tanks or light armored vehicles, or helicopters in attack, as well as pillboxes, bunkers and other reinforced emplacements, providing high precision of fire and enhancing combat capabilities of military units for various applications. Kornet-E is fitted with a thermal imaging sight, and enables night-time fire to distances of up to 3.5 - 4 kilometers. As compared to a number of foreign-designed equivalents, Kornet-E is distinguished for a relatively simple design, which enables its production in commercial numbers. In October 2002, the Design Bureau for Instrument-Making in Tula, near Moscow, completed the delivery of one hundred Kornet-E systems plus 1,000 dedicated missiles under a contract with Greece. The systems are designed for integration onto the Greek Army's Hammer armored vehicles.
New solutions from Ukraine
Development works are currently in progress in Ukraine for an innovative TDRPP that would provide a range of up to 1.8 kilometers. A range as long as that would be accomplished through taking a complex approach to the missile control system. It would be guided by a laser beam directed on the tail of the missile in flight rather than on the target as such. In so doing the laser beam would control the missile in so called "leading" mode, in which designation laser beam is directed to ahead of the designated target without illuminating it. The laser beam is only brought into coincidence with the target (tank or helicopter) for 0.3 seconds before it is hit by the missile, which is too short a period to activate a
Russia is exporting anti-tank guided missile systems Kornet and Metis-M with tandem-charge hollow-charge or thermobaric (space-charge) warheads counter-laser system. As the target is approached, the accuracy of fire would be provided using an active radar - a millimeter-wave radar guidance unit. The item's performance parameters would enable synchronizing the "leading" laser-guidance mode with the target-approaching mode using a radar guidance unit to make the approaching missile "invisible", hence enhance the likelihood of the target's being hit. For that matter it should be pointed out that a means is so far non-existent to counter millimeter- wave guidance units.
Chief performance parameters of the TDRPP now being developed in Ukraine are featured on page 33. Armored prime movers, motor vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles or helicopters can be used as platforms for silo containers with the missiles. In formal terms, the Ukrainian TDRPP - with parameters not fully adequate to the "launch-and forget principle" - would be somewhere in between second- and third-generation systems.
The complex approach embodied in the Ukrainian design has been adopted by other countries. Thus, for example, according to the US military weekly Defense News, presently under consideration in the US is a variety of development projects for a casualty-action general- purpose TDRPP using as platforms helicopters or airplanes, or even surface vehicles such as Future Combat Systems. The future projectile would have the same dimensions and mass as Hellfire (177 mm in diameter, 1.77 m in length, and a mass of 48.9 kilos), but would have a range twice as long, together with a number of enhanced performance parameters. Its guidance unit will operate in three modes, combining the advantages of semi-active laser guidance, thermal-imaging sensor and millimeter-wave radar. Such a combination would enable launches in harsh weather, or in dust or smoke environments.
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