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AIR-TO-GROUND

WEAPONS

Love

And Rockets
The need to reduce casualties, take slower ground
attack aircraft outside the reach of ground-based
air defences, and arm large numbers of Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is driving the development of
small, lightweight air-to-ground precision-guided
munitions.

Roy Braybrook (with inputs from Thomas Withington)

The mid-body location


of BAE Systems APKWS
guidance and control modules
when installed on General
Dynamics Hydra 70 rockets
adds significant length. This is
not a problem with uncapped
launchers, such as this sevenround M260 BAE Systems

his low-cost advance in air-to-ground


weapon lethality is being achieved by
adding Guidance and Control (GC)
kits to existing ordnance. Precision
guidance has also made it possible to
engage a broad target set, using only small
lightweight warheads which in turn drive
down weapon size and mass.
I Rocket Projectiles

The United States Air Force (USAF)


began to use precision guided munitions

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en masse during the involvement of


the United States in the Vietnam War
between 1965 and 1975. The addition of
precision guidance kits to dumb bombs,
illustrated by the laser-guided Texas
Instruments (now Raytheon) Paveway-I
system during this conflict, proved to
be more cost effective than developing
precision-guided air-to-ground weapons
from scratch. Since the commencement of
US-led combat operations in Afghanistan
and Iraq last decade, a trend has emerged

for precision guidance kits to equip air-toground rockets providing an equivalent


level of accuracy to Air-to-Ground
Missiles (AGMs) but at less cost.
The United States armed forces has
employed the 70mm Hydra 70 air-toground rocket since the late-1940s which
is now produced by General Dynamics.
It was employed during the Korean War
of 1950-53. The unit cost of the rocket is
about $1500, depending on the weapons
warhead choice which can include cargo

The first export order for the BAE Systems


APKWS came from the Royal Jordanian Air
Force in 2014, to arm its Airbus CN-235
gunships and turboprop transports. Other
orders have been forthcoming from Iraq
and Saudi Arabia BAE Systems

Raytheons seven-round 70mm Talon rocket launcher is seen here on the left, with two BGM176B Griffin tubes in the middle, and four rail-launched Lockheed Martin Joint Air-Ground
Missiles on the right Raytheon

or unitary warhead versions. The United


States Army selected BAE Systems to
provide the companys APKWS (Advanced
Precision Kill Weapon System) in April
2006. Executive oversight of the programme
was then transferred to the US Navy in
November 2008.
The APKWS is a laser guidance kit
inserted between the Hydra 70 rocket
warhead and motor. An APKWS-equipped
Hydra 70 has a nominal range of circa 0.8
to 3.7 nautical miles (1.5 to five kilometres).
It adds ten pounds (four kilograms) of
weight to the Hydra 70. The standard
APKWS uses the ten-pound M151 high
explosive warhead, but the United States
Marine Corps (USMC) has plans (as yet
unfunded) to have it in service by 2019
with the 14lb (six kilogram) Nammo
M282 Multi-Purpose Penetrator warhead
with the weapons package deployed on its
Bell UH-1Y medium-lift utility helicopter
and AH-1Z gunship. Meanwhile, the unit
cost of the APKWS is approximately
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AIR-TO-GROUND
WEAPONS

The Lockheed Martin DAGR (Direct Attack Guided Rocket)


is shown during firing trials from a Boeing
AH-64D Apache gunship, in which 16 hits were achieved
with 16 firings. The weapon has also been test-launched
from ground platforms Lockheed Martin

$28000, providing a dramatic cost saving


relative to the $100,000 unit cost of
Lockheed Martins AGM-114 Hellfire
family of AGMs. For faster aircraft, the
APKWS-FW (Fixed-Wing) has a cartridge
that forces open canards to overcome the
airflow surrounding the aircraft which
can conspire to stick the weapon to the
airframe. Although the APKWS is already
cleared on the UH-1Y and AH-1Z of the
USMC David Harrold, precision guidance
solutions director for BAE Systems, notes
that it is also permitted for carriage on
other aircraft. It has been cleared on
the Sikorsky MH-60S naval support
helicopter of the US Navy, and the Boeing
AH-64D/E Apache Longbow/Guardian
gunships of the US Army. In addition to
these rotary-wing aircraft, the APKWS has
been fired from the McDonnell-Douglas/
Boeing AV-8B (USMC) and the Fairchild
Republic/Lockheed
Martin
A-10C
Thunderbolt (USAF) ground attack aircraft

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and General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin


F-16C/D multi-role combat aircraft.
In April 2014 the US Navy signed an
agreement with the Royal Jordanian Air
Force (RJAF) to supply the APKWS-FW
for the latters Airbus CN-235 turboprop
gunship aircraft. There is no word as to
how many of the rockets the RJAF will
receive, when deliveries will commence
and conclude, or the value of the contract.
The sale of 380 APKWS rounds to Saudi
Arabia was approved in May this year, with
the export of 2000 to Lebanon approved
this June. As with the RJAF order, specific
contract details have not been released. In
November 2014 Iraq requested up to 2000
APKWS rounds under a Foreign Military
Sales contract from the United States.
Meanwhile, the Australian Army could
become the fifth overseas operator having
tested APKWS kits on Forges de Zeebrugge
FZ90 70mm rockets in firings from an
Airbus Helicopters Tiger-ARH gunship

this April, although there is no word yet on


when an order to this effect could occur.
I Alternatives

Given Raytheons experience with the


Paveway laser guided bomb series, its 70mm
Talon GC kit must be a strong contender for
future Hydra 70 retrofits. In 2008 Raytheon
signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabibased Emirates Advanced Investments
(EAI) Group to share the weapons
development, and in September 2014 Talon
entered full-rate production under a $117
million contract awarded to Raytheon by
the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed
Forces General Headquarters. A media
report published on 24 February stated
that the Talon rocket would equip the UAE
Army. Although not formally revealed, it is
expected that these weapons will furnish
the Nimr multiple-launch rocket system
armoured vehicle variant. The UAE Air
Force (UAEAF) is also an operator of the

AH-64D and the Talon guidance kit will be


used with rockets fired from this aircraft.
In 2014 the Talon was given a US Army
airworthiness release for firing from the
AH-64E. It has also been fired from the US
Armys Bell OH-58D and MD Helicopters
MD-530G
armed
reconnaissance
helicopters. In June 2015, Raytheon
announced that Talon firings had been
conducted by US Army AH-64D/E
helicopters, and it is possible that the US
Army may formally acquire the Talon
guidance kit for its Hydra 70 rockets at
some undisclosed point in the near future.
Lockheed Martins DAGR (Direct
Attack Guided Rocket) is another strong
contender to augment the Hydra 70
rocket. Like Talon, the DAGR uses a
nose-mounted GC module, allowing both
target lock-on before launch and target
lock-on after launch, and has been fired
successfully from the US Armys AH64D, and Boeings A/MH-6X and AH-6I
armed reconnaissance helicopters. The
DAGR is two-metres (six-feet) long and
weighs 36lb (16kg) with a ten pound
M151 warhead, increasing in weight to
42lb (19kg) with a 17lb (eight kilogram)

Illustrated in model form, China Aerospace Science


and Technology Caihong (Rainbow) CH-3 UAV is being
exported with AR-1 air-to-ground laser-homing missiles.
Export sales have taken place to four countries,
including Nigeria and Pakistan Roy Braybrook

warhead. It has a maximum range


of almost four nautical miles (seven
kilometres) at sea level, and almost seven
nautical miles (twelve kilometres) when
launched from 20000ft (6100m). In June
2014, Lockheed Martin announced that
it had performed test launches of the

DAGR from its Long Range Surveillance


and Attack Vehicle wheeled platform at
Eglin airbase, Florida. According to the
company, the DAGR rockets scored direct
hits on their targets. Although the DAGR
has been tested by the US Army, it has not
yet been procured en masse by the force.

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AIR-TO-GROUND
WEAPONS

The Derringer door launcher of the USMCs Lockheed Martin KC-130J Harvest Hawk
turboprop tanker/freighter allows the Raytheon AGM/BGM-176A/B Griffin air-to-ground
missile to be launched without depressurising the cabin US DoD

According to a company spokesperson,


DAGR could migrate to other platforms
beyond rotorcraft. At speeds comparable
to helicopters, the DAGR can be
integrated on fixed-wing platforms and
suitable UAVs. Ultimately, the DAGR can
be modified for integration and use on
faster platforms.
Canadas Magellan Aerospace, meanwhile,
offers the 34.6lb (15.7kg) CRV7-PG
(Precision Guided) development of its
70mm projectile, and claims the best
performance in its class. The company has
not published any details regarding which
armed forces use these guided rockets.
Elbit Systems STAR (Smart Tactical
Advanced Rocket) GC module is marketed
as a retrofit for both 68mm and 70mm
rockets. Although not confirmed by the
company, it is assumed that the STAR is
now in service with the Israeli Air Force,
possibly onboard their AH-64D aircraft.
The STAR GC module is used in the
Orbital ATK GATR (Guided Advanced
Tactical Rocket). This is effectively a newbuild weapon, using few components from
the legacy Hydra 70. It provides improved
accuracy and a range of four nautical miles.
In 2013 ATK was awarded a US Special
Operations Command contract for GATR
to be evaluated on Sikorsky MH-60L/M
special forces helicopters of the US Army.

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Beyond the $3.2 million contract awarded


to Orbital ATK and Elbit Systems by the
United States Department of Defence
in April 2013 to evaluate this weapon
onboard the MH-60L/M, the current
status of this programme is unknown.
In 2013 Thales test fired its 68mm
RPM (Roquette a Precision Metrique/
Metric Precision Rocket) from a TigerHAP armed reconnaissance helicopter to
demonstrate its capabilities to Frances
Direction Generale de lArmament
(General Armaments Directorate) defence
procurement agency. It has subsequently

collaborated with Airbus Helicopters to


integrate the missile on the latters TigerHAP/HAD armed reconnaissance and
attack helicopters. According to reports
during this years Paris Air Show these
helicopters which are in service with the
ALAT (Aviation Lgre de lArme de Terre/
French Army Aviation) should receive the
RPM from 2020 onwards.
Another completely new laserguided rocket is Turkeys Roketsan Cirit
(Javelin), developed in response to a
Turkish Army requirement to arm its
Tusas/AgustaWestland T-129 and Bell
AH-1W gunships. The Cirit weighs 33lb
(15kg) with a tri-mode warhead, and has
a range of four nautical miles. In 2013
Roketsan received a $196 million order
for the Cirit from Tawazun on behalf of
the UAE Armed Forces. During this years
International Defence Exhibition in Abu
Dhabi it was reported that a five nauticalmile (ten-kilometre) range version of this
weapon has been integrated onboard the
UAEAFs Air Tractor AT-802U turboprop
counter-insurgency aircraft and its UH60L/M medium-lift utility helicopters.
I Other Missiles

All laser-guided rockets are restricted to


targets within a few degrees of aircraft
heading given the field-of-view of the
laser illumination of the target, and are
limited in range and warhead size due to
the size of the weapon and therefore the
rocket motor and warhead that it can
accommodate. The original advocate of
light air-to-ground weapons was the US
Air Force Special Operations Command
(USAFSOC) whose fixed-wing Lockheed
Martin AC-130H/U Spectre/SpookyII fixed-wing gunships were by the

The Textron Fury is an un-powered, fixed-wing derivative of the tube-launched supersonic


Thales LMM (Lightweight Multi-Role Missile), derived from the Thales Starstreak short-range
air defence weapon Textron

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AIR-TO-GROUND
WEAPONS

The Lockheed Martin Shadow Hawk is an air-to-ground glide weapon, shown during a
test flight, mounted under the right wing of a Textron Systems/AAI RQ-7B Shadow 200
UAV Lockheed Martin

The diminutive size of the Raytheon Pyros weapon is illustrated by this photograph of it being
installed on the centreline pylon of a 105lb (48kg) Raytheon Cobra UAV. The Pyros illustrates
the trend for small, guided munitions Raytheon

late 1990s restricted to low or selected


medium surface-to-air threat scenarios by
night. These restrictions followed the loss
of an AC-130H to an Iraqi Army 9K32
Strela-2 man-portable air defence system
during the Battle of Khafji on the Saudi
Arabia-Iraq border on 31 January 1991.
Their side-firing Rock Island Arsenal
M102 105mm howitzers required the
aircraft to circle within four nautical miles
(eight kilometres) of the target, given the
weapons range.
In 1997 USAFSOC issued a Lethality
Enhancement Operational Requirement
Document for its AC-130H/U series, calling
for an indirect fire weapon (the Special

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Operations Precision Guided Munition) with


a reach of 16nm (30km). A 2006 USAFSOC
presentation highlighted the tube-launched,
140mm, 44lb (20kg) Northrop Grumman
GBU-44B Viper Strike glide weapon with
a combined Global Positioning and Inertial
Navigation System (GPS/INS) and terminal
laser-homing. The GBU-44B now forms
part of MBDAs portfolio, which markets the
42lb (19kg) GBU-44E, developed to allow
the USMCs KC-130J turboprop tanker
and freighter to deploy the missile from steep
or shallow attack angles, states MBDA.
According to an MBDA spokesperson, this
weapon is cleared for the KC-130J, although
it is not currently deployed to this end.

Operations in Afghanistan saw the


USMC take the lead to arm some KC-130Js
for persistent reconnaissance missions. For
its KC-130J Harvest Hawk upgrade, the
USMC also adopted the 33lb (15kg) laserhoming Raytheon AGM-176A Griffin
missile, production of which began in
2008, alongside the GBU-44E. The former
carries a 13lb (six kilogram) warhead, and
has greater range of four nautical miles
(eight kilometres) compared to the GBU44B/E (see above). The AGM-176A was
initially launched horizontally aft from a
ten-tube Gunslinger launcher attached
to the loading ramp floor. From 2012 it
was instead dropped from a five-round
Derringer door launcher mounted in a
side door, allowing cabin pressurisation
to be maintained. This door is reportedly
also used on the USAF MC-130W Combat
Spear special forces aircraft and AC-130J
Ghostrider gunships. The forward-firing
BGM-176B Griffin entered production in
2010, and Raytheon delivered its 2000th
BGM-176B to the USAF in February 2014.
The USAF placed an $86 million order for
AGM/BGM-176A/B Griffin weapons in
November 2014, followed by a $12 million
order in May 2015. The weapon may yet
migrate onto other platforms. According
to Steven Dickman, programme director
of the weapon at Raytheon, Raytheon
recently teamed with Bell-Boeing to
demonstrate the BGM-176B firing from
the firms CV/MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotors
of the USAF and USMC in November
2014 and March 2015. The company is
now moving ahead with the AGM/BGM176A/B Griffin Block-III weapon. The
Block-III is the most current capability
upgrade for the Griffin family. It applies
to both the AGM-176A (Griffin A)
and BGM-176B (Griffin B). Block-III
adds an improved Semi-Active Laser
(SAL) seeker for better accuracy and
performance against fast-moving targets.
It also incorporates a Raytheon-designed
Multi-Effect Warhead System (MEWS) to
increase lethality while retaining Griffins
low collateral damage advantage, he said.
The supersonic laser beam-riding 28.7lb
(13kg) Thales LMM (Lightweight Multirole
Missile) is in production for the Royal
Navys AgustaWestland AW-159 Wildcat
naval support helicopter. In July 2014,
AgustaWestland and the United Kingdom
Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a
contract worth $153 million to integrate,
test and install the LMM onboard the
Royal Navys AW-159 alongside the MBDA

Probably the smallest and lightest of the


new generation of air-ground precision
guided munitions is the seven-pound (threekilogram) Orbital ATK Hatchet. It has wraparound wings and fold-down fins to allow
launching from a tube Orbital ATK

Sea Venom/ANL (Anti-Navire Lger/


Light Anti-Ship) missile. One month
earlier, Thales and the UK MoD signed a
contract worth $82 million encompassing
the development, qualification and testing
of the LMM for the AW-159 helicopters
operated by the British Army and Royal
Navy. In 2014 Thales unveiled the 13lb (six

kilogram) FreeFall LMM (FF-LMM) glide


weapon, which has fixed wings, GPS/INS
navigation and Semi-Active Laser (SAL)
terminal homing.
Lockheed Martin has developed two
glide weapons: the 22lb (10kg) Scorpion and
eleven pound (five kilogram) Shadow Hawk.
The former weapon is believed to have been
used from 2010 for targeted attacks by the
US Central Intelligence Agency against
Islamist insurgents in Pakistan to minimise
collateral damage, according to media
reports. In 2012 the Shadow Hawk was
tested from a US Army Textron Systems/
AAI RQ-7B Shadow-200 UAV. The 13lb
(six kilogram) Raytheon Pyros has foldable
wings and fins. On 18 July 2014, a live fire
test of the Pyros was performed.
Other lightweight weapons include
the ten-pound General Dynamics 81mm
Air-Drop Mortar. In November 2012, the
company announced that it had performed
a flight test of this weapon from a Navmar
Tigershark UAV. During the test, three
mortars were launched which landed
within seven metres (23 feet) of their GPSidentified target. Apart from this test, no
more recent news has emerged regarding

this weapon. One of the lightest weapons


under examination in this article is the
seven-pound (three kilogram) Orbital
ATK Hatchet glide munition which
could be used to provide firepower to
UAVs. The company revealed at the 2015
IDEX event that it expects this weapon to
soon enter service with the special forces
communities in the US Navy and USAF,
although it demurred on providing a date
as to when this could occur. Launched
from a tube or rack, the Hatchet has three
wings and GPS/INS navigation with SAL
or alternative terminal homing.
Regarding future developments in the
laser-guided munitions domain armies,
navies and air forces around the world will be
watching the United States armed forces
closely to see what additional purchases of
precision-guided air-to-ground weapons
they will make in the immediate future. The
US is heavily engaged in fighting Islamist
insurgents in the Middle East and Africa, and
the tools that they bring to this fight, and their
success or otherwise, will have a significant
bearing on the similar weapons that other
armed forces procure to engage ground
targets both now and in the future.

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