Networked multipack cruise missiles in successful test
Could make tanks & artillery obsolete
Development continues on the US Forces' network-controlled, crewless homing missile system. The Non Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), aka "Netfires", has had a successful test firing, and is now being fitted aboard the US Navy's new inshore warships.
The NLOS-LS comes in the form of a large box about 1.5m tall and light enough to be driven about in a Humvee. The box has its own power and network comms systems, and holds 15 vertical-launch missiles. It can be fired from anywhere - strapped down in a truck bed or on a ship's deck, or simply standing in a field. It needs no crew, taking its firing orders from a command node on the military network. The system was originally known as "rockets in a box".
Meet the modern artillery.
The multipack missiles are also known as Precision Attack Munitions (PAMs). They are networked and can navigate in flight using a combination of GPS and inertial sensors.
The idea is that a soldier with a network terminal would be able to mark a target, and far away a PAM pocket cruise-missile would leap out of its box and fly autonomously to the nominated location, homing in for the final approach assisted by either a laser-pointer dot from the soldier or its own infrared sensor. If the target moves while the missile is in transit, no problem - it's on the network and can receive updates on the fly.
Alternatively the target might be spotted and marked by any of a range of netted-up recce systems: UAVs, aircraft, whatever.
The PAM had its first end-to-end test firing recently, operating as a network node throughout its flight after taking off from a launch box at the White Sands missile range in New Mexico. On reaching the target area, it homed in on a laser dot successfully to destroy an old T-72 tank - and sent back imagery across the network as it did so, confirming what it was hitting.
"NLOS-LS represents an exciting, new capability within the IBCT [Infantry Brigade Combat Team] to precisely engage moving targets," said Col. Tony Daskevich of the US Army.
The Netfires/NLOS-LS is also going to sea, according to reports. The US Navy's new inshore-warfare Littoral Combat Ships are modular in nature, with three bays where different payloads can be fitted. If all three bays were filled with NLOS-LS rocket boxes, a single ship would have 180 missiles at its disposal. These could be used to sink enemy fast-attack boats, or to provide fire support ashore.
"NLOS-LS not only protects our ship and sea-base assets but our Marines and Navy SEALS as they go ashore,” said a Navy spokesman.
One view of the new multipack networked missiles is that they're just another high-tech toy for the armed forces to fool about with - more waste on the part of the military industrial complex.
If you wanted to, though, you might be a bit more impressed by the fact that a single infantryman (or UAV) can now knock out a dozen or more fast-moving tanks, needing no more backup than a Humvee- or helicopter-load of gear sitting unattended twenty miles away. NLOS-LS missile packs can even be parachuted into position from transport aircraft; it would be easy to position them ahead of an old-style tank assault.
You might say that this is a significant nail in the coffin of both tanks and heavy artillery, if NLOS-LS can do all it promises.
With no more tanks and heavy artillery, armies would be very different. They might have an awful lot less gunners, supply people, tank crews and mechanics. They might have a lot more face-to-face footsoldiers, but a lot fewer people overall. They might be faster to get somewhere, more able to focus on modern counterinsurgency fighting without having a cow all the time about losing their skills in oldschool armour/artillery warfare.
And they might actually be cheaper, too. NLOS-LS netmissile-boxes wouldn't cost much to have compared to tank and artillery regiments and all their panoply of heavy, fuel-guzzling, maintenance-intensive equipment. The rocket boxes might also take a lot of work away from attack helicopters and high-spec'd close support jets, again potentially saving a lot on cash and manpower.
So maybe this isn't just another shiny piece of irrelevant kit. Given the number of important military jobs it threatens, however, it could easily fail to gain traction. Then, like all the networked-up components of the US Army's Future Combat Systems plan, there are cyber security issues to worry about.
NLOS-LS is currently running though a six-year design and development phase, scheduled to complete in 2010. ®
Now we know....
..where that bloody 'fridge from the ISS landed!!
You can't take or hold territory with air power
it takes boots on the ground. And machines to deliver them. And support hardware.
Whizbang VLOS missiles may have a slight issue dealing with forest cover. Or tunnels. or bridge overpasses. Armored cavalry is a hell of a lot faster than foot soldiers, and cheaper per round than any missile. It goes where you point it and there's f*ck-all you can do to stop it. There's anti-missile defense systems (that can't be used if infantry is around,) but no anti-tank shell defense.
there will always be a need for ground armor. And always a need for a simple tube and shell weapon that can be aimed and fired by mechanical means if necessary. The side that forgets that lesson will be educated most harshly by the side that doesn't.
Expecting a single missile system to make most everything obsolete is like people who thought tanks were obsolete with the arrival of the AH-64. Or the same idiots who thought the 5.56mm would be the end-all, be-all combat rifle round.
But, like McNamara, when bean counters and budget whiners are the big decision making forces in your military, you get what you deserve-a more "cost' effective force, but less "combat" effective. hence the clusterf*ck that was Vietnam and the lack of resolution in Afghanistan.
(Civilian interference in military matters should come in only two forms-"GO" and "STOP". Go to send them to war, Stop to bring them home. The rest, is why there's corruption, wars for political self gratification, needless death, and inefficiency.)
As soon as I read "attack enemy fast ships", somehow the Somali buccaneers came to mind. Now you only need one box per merchant boat; as soon as the pirate fast ship approaches, the remote operator only needs to press the "0wn pir8s" button and boom go the pirates!!!
Hm... maybe this is what DARPA was thinking after all??