Feeds

US Navy produces smart, cheap 6kg fire+forget missile

Suitcase-size 10km-sniper assassin version, anyone?

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

US military boffins have added cheap "fire and forget" autonomous seeker heads to basic, lightweight dumb rockets of a type which can be fired in large numbers. By seriously reducing the size and cost of smart weapons, this development is yet another big step towards changing the way wars are fought.

The project in question is called Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS), and has seen various US initiatives feed into efforts by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to add fire-and-forget homing capability to the 2.75-inch/70mm rockets carried by various aircraft.

Such rockets are lightweight weapons, weighing just over 6kg, and thus they can be – and are – carried in large numbers. A single chopper or jet can mount pods containing 76 of them, for instance.

A normal 70mm rocket is unguided, however, which means that many must be fired to obtain a hit. The standard means of using 70mms until now has been to ripple off a whole pod-full at once, with the pilot simply pointing the aircraft at the target (or allowing his point of aim to swing across a target area to be sprayed with rockets).

In recent years there have been efforts to fit 70mm rockets with laser-dot seekers, allowing a single round to strike precisely on a dot shone by a designator. These projects have had varying amounts of success, and such weapons aren't yet in widespread use. In general, for this sort of work, a much heavier 50kg-odd Hellfire missile will be called for at the moment.

Even if laser-guided 70mms were widely available, however, picking off many targets with such a system would be comparatively laborious work. A pilot would have to get his laser dot on the spot, launch a rocket and then hold the laser on while the rocket flew to it. This is especially tricky in the case of moving targets, and limits what the aircraft can do while the missile is in flight.

That's why the new LCITS mini-missiles are interesting. They don't need any laser dot: they home on their targets using infrared imaging. A pilot needs only to mark the target once and squeeze off a 70mm, and he or she is then free to manoeuvre and shoot at more targets.

A single helicopter armed with LCITS 70mms would be able, as the ONR suggests, to cause a frightful slaughter among a "swarm" of attacking speedboats. Normally the chopper crew would be slowed up or even stymied by the need to hold laser dots on targets moving at high speed and probably weaving or jinking unpredictably. There is a "fire and forget" version of Hellfire but it can only be shot from more sophisticated Apache copters mounting the Longbow radar: and an Apache can only carry 16 Hellfires as opposed to 76 LCITS 70mms.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?