Capability gap for rapid & precise fire support from forward bases?

#1
I have just filed a UK patent on a novel application of existing technology: very short range ballistic missiles fired from an array of vertical launch tubes with terminal guidance.

Instead of waiting for the patent to be granted, I'm asking around on Arrse what you all think of it because as an individual with limited resources and no munitions factory I don't have a good chance of making this without an industrial partner, so I might as well share this idea and get feedback on it while I look for one.

I believe a capability gap exists where forward bases at present are unable to provide rapid & precise fire support to nearby dismounted or mounted patrols. The only HE weapons a forward base might have are 40mm GMGs, mortars, shoulder launched rockets or possibly, howitzers.

40mm GMGs are still direct fire, unguided weapons; the rounds themselves have a small lethal radius. Mortars fire (usu. unguided) shells one at a time, require a crew of 3 (for the L16), have a limited range (5.7km for the L16) and require time to aim impacts near the enemy (for the L16: probably out of the question if the enemy is within 75m of friendly forces). Mortars and howitzers do not have response capability in a 360 degree azimuth and require time to re-aim, e.g. for targets behind them. Shoulder launched rockets are again direct fire with a limited effective range.

It seems that immediate 360 degree coverage at ranges under 30km (c.f. JDAM 28km, JDAM-ER 80km) can be achieved by a series of vertical launch tubes firing missiles into the air from forward bases and using free fall and aerodynamic surfaces with GPS to guide the warheads to their intended target. JDAM kits reportedly cost about USD$10k, which I expect to be the bulk of the weapon's unit costs. The kits would have to be modified for these smaller missiles with associated costs but I do not expect the technical challenge itself to be insurmountable.

The advantage of this system is that many missiles can be fired at once, no crew is required to operate the system in the forward base (launch commands can be received from soldiers on patrol), spent tubes can be reloaded and left alone, large amounts of precise firepower is made available to patrols within reach of bases and isolated forward bases now have the ability to provide fire support to patrols.

What do you all think of the idea?
 
#3
So, you've identified the problems with current fire support from mortars; difficult to shift azimuth. So from what I can see your options to solve it look like this:

1. Design a turntable to put the mortar on.

2. Design a guided missile solution costing millions of pounds in design and manufacture and over $10,000 per missile.

Fisher Space Pen vs. pencil comes to mind here. Just my £0.02.
 
#5
So, you've identified the problems with current fire support from mortars; difficult to shift azimuth. So from what I can see your options to solve it look like this:

1. Design a turntable to put the mortar on.
Elevation will still need to be adjusted, unless the targets are at the same range. 81mm L16 still requires a crew of 3 (which is three less people to do other tasks) and is unsuitable for hitting hostiles too close to friendlies or non-combatants. I'm not saying the mortar will be obsolete by this - I'm just saying it will be supplemented by the proposed system under particular circumstances.

2. Design a guided missile solution costing millions of pounds in design and manufacture and over $10,000 per missile.
A unit cost of $10k per missile is probably conservative.
 
#6
Elevation will still need to be adjusted, unless the targets are at the same range. 81mm L16 still requires a crew of 3 (which is three less people to do other tasks) and is unsuitable for hitting hostiles too close to friendlies or non-combatants. I'm not saying the mortar will be obsolete by this - I'm just saying it will be supplemented by the proposed system under particular circumstances.



A unit cost of $10k per missile is probably conservative.
Surely something like a L16 is simple, 3 blokes are alot less to go wrong and has more redundancy built into it than a big expensive complicated box. KISS comes to mind. Will the box need more than three REME type chaps to look after it, or if it goes wrong do they have fly out, leading to an extra chinook flight.

What sort of payload are you thinking this missile would carry? Get a big enough warhead and the safe distance is going to be ove 75m even with pin point accuracy.
 
#8
Something like this YouTube - Future Weapons: Non Line of Sight - Launch System (NLOS-LS) ?

Skip to 1:50 to get to the actual start of the info. It's cheesy but explains the basic concept well enough for the purposes of this discussion.
Very interesting, thanks.

Why was the programme apparently cancelled by the US Army?

XM501 Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

April 2010 - US Army calls for program to be canceled.
3 May 2010 - The U.S. Army removes the system from their website.
18 May 2010 - Defense Department approved an Army recommendation to cancel the program
I think it is overkill to try to guide the missiles using anything other than GPS + inertial navigation. What is needed is a cheap accurate fire support weapon for FOBs, and INS perhaps with GPS is perfectly adequate at short ranges.

As other people have pointed out the weapon would be competing with mortars for the fire support role from FOBs at those ranges, and therefore cost per round (the major advantage of mortars/howitzers) must be minimised to make them competitive.
 
#10
Elevation will still need to be adjusted, unless the targets are at the same range. 81mm L16 still requires a crew of 3 (which is three less people to do other tasks) and is unsuitable for hitting hostiles too close to friendlies or non-combatants.
What do you consider to be the minimum range of an 81? The days of mortar bombs falling all over the place have long gone. With the introduction of laser and GPS and not to mention recorded targets accuracy is very high. Also how many shots would you have before re-loading compared compared to a 81mm or 60mm?

I'm just saying it will be supplemented by the proposed system under particular circumstances.
It seems to be doing a job that is already done well by other cheaper methods, 60, 81, 40 and javelin in the extream.
 
#11
What do you consider to be the minimum range of an 81? The days of mortar bombs falling all over the place have long gone. With the introduction of laser and GPS and not to mention recorded targets accuracy is very high. Also how many shots would you have before re-loading compared compared to a 81mm or 60mm?
Didn't say they would be used indiscriminately. In fact the whole point is being able to provide precise fire support next to patrols under attack.

It seems to be doing a job that is already done well by other cheaper methods, 60, 81, 40 and javelin in the extream.
Javelin cheap?

FGM-148 Javelin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unit cost $40,000 (£20,000) (missile); $125,000 (reusable Command Launch Unit)
 

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#13
#14
Javelin isn't exactly direct fire, but you need to be able to see target (hence the precision bit)

So, you've identified the problems with current fire support from mortars; difficult to shift azimuth. So from what I can see your options to solve it look like this:

1. Design a turntable to put the mortar on.

2. Design a guided missile solution costing millions of pounds in design and manufacture and over $10,000 per missile.

Fisher Space Pen vs. pencil comes to mind here. Just my £0.02.
ROFL
 
#15
Fisher Space Pen vs. pencil comes to mind here. Just my £0.02.
I do like that comparison, but there is an element to it that is rarely appreciated:
A spacecraft in orbit is under microgravity, which means any fine powders will really get absolutely everywhere and anywhere.
Spacecraft are chock-full of various electrical and electronic systems. Since these are pretty important for survival and you can't really pull up and get out to access externally mounted kit (or do really fine work if you get out while you are going along), they are all inside with you.

In this environment, is it really sensible to be pulverising graphite (a nice conductive material) by writing with a pencil and letting that drift around your electrically sensitive environment?

Granted the Russians tended to have less sensitive electrical systems, and you can get pencil-type devices that don't slough off graphite. However, the Fischer pen wasn't commissioned by NASA, merely bought by them after it was invented independently. The Russians have also now bought it for their space agency and it also sells very well commercially.

In this situation, perhaps the answer is a laser designator and a GPS combination. This will tell the weapon roughly where the target is and guide the projectile on to it in the terminal phase. The weapon would be a mortar of some suitable calibre with either a crew or an automated fire control to get the projectile roughly in the right place so a SAL seeker can do the rest.
Rockets burn more propellant than tube artillery so there is more logistical cost for rockets. SAL seekers can be hardened to mortar launch accelerations, mortars drop the rounds in at a steep angle so crest considerations are less of an issue. As long as the fire control (automated or manual) can drop the rounds into the seeker catch basket you are laughing.
 
#16
Didn't say they would be used indiscriminately. In fact the whole point is being able to provide precise fire support next to patrols under attack.



Javelin cheap?

FGM-148 Javelin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unit cost $40,000 (£20,000) (missile); $125,000 (reusable Command Launch Unit)
I accept that javelin in not cheap but it is in use and the training is in hand as well as the log support which must be factored into the cost of a new system. In comparison the other 3 are very cheap.

You seem to be missing my point. What do you consider to be the accuracy of the 81? What would your danger area be? Would be greater than a 40mm? Once a target has been fired by an 81mm the safety level is mostly taken up by the danger area of the bomb going bang. In the days of steam mortaring getting the grid right was one of the big inaccuracies which have now been removed by GPS and laser.
 
#17
Why was the programme apparently cancelled by the US Army?

[I think it is overkill to try to guide the missiles using anything other than GPS + inertial navigation. What is needed is a cheap accurate fire support weapon for FOBs, and INS perhaps with GPS is perfectly adequate at short ranges.
An article on NLOS cancellation:
Army asks to cancel NLOS-LS - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

The problem with GPS is that you need to know the coordinates of the target. NLOS was designed to find and hit moving tanks.

The Taliban don't move that fast, however, locating them is still the main problem. If you want to win Afghanistan quickly, invent a device that will give you a 10 figure grid of every member of the Taliban.
 
#18
Perhaps an improved version of Merlin?

Just digging out a link.

Edit- I thought they cancelled Merlin ages ago:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-5220144.html

Hm. Not sure if it's got the range of a rocket system but similar idea.
 
#19
Would it not be cheaper to develop a GPS guided mortar that can be used in existing launch systems? Like a tiny JDAM?
Problems with any gun-based solution for payload delivery are:
1) Range of the weapon is fundamentally limited by maximum tolerable breech pressures. If you want greater range, you either get rocket-assisted shells or thicker barrels.
2) Having to sustain high barrel pressures -> thick barrels -> heavy system
3) In comparison, rockets develop their thrust over time and therefore you don't need the same amount of pressure in their combustion chambers, to gun barrels.
4) You carry around a lot of extra weight for gun-based solutions. If you fire just 1 shell you still need to carry the empty gun. Missile based solutions scale linearly with the number of rounds you take.
5) Mortars/Howitzers need to be crewed 24/7 while they are firing, missiles can be issued as a complete sealed unit with minimal maintenance and operational requirements.
 
#20
You seem to be missing my point. What do you consider to be the accuracy of the 81? What would your danger area be? Would be greater than a 40mm? Once a target has been fired by an 81mm the safety level is mostly taken up by the danger area of the bomb going bang. In the days of steam mortaring getting the grid right was one of the big inaccuracies which have now been removed by GPS and laser.
As a civilian I am not familiar with operational guidelines for using mortars as fire support weapons in proximity to friendly soldiers. I expect the minimum safe distance of friendlies from the intended targets will be a factor of the blast radius + the inherent inaccuracies of the weapon.

Barring a competency malfunction, a dumb mortar bomb with no terminal guidance will most likely have a larger circular error probable than a missile with terminal guidance. Therefore for the same explosive payload guided missiles can provide closer fire support than unguided mortar shells. Or, put it this way: would you dare to kill a hostage taker with a knife to a hostage's throat from 25m if you had a sniper rifle, or a shotgun?

Why not put guidance on mortar shells?
You could, but mortars still have limited ranges compared to missiles.

Why not use rocket assisted mortar shells?
Because then you might as well dispense with the heavy lump of metal that is the gun barrel and use missiles.
 

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