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THE RACE FOR THE GUIDED 2.75 INCH ROCKET
THE RACE FOR THE GUIDED 2.75 INCH ROCKET
By Julian Nettlefold
ATK and Lockheed Martin briefed BATTLESPACE during Eurosatory on developments of their solutions for the guided 2.75 inch rocket, Hydra in particular. A number of companies including ATK, Lockheed Martin, Magellan Aerospace, BAE Systems and Raytheon in association with the UAE government have developed solutions for the system.
“The requirement for precision guidance to reduce fratricide and collateral damage has driven the developments of the guided 2.75 inch rocket, Tonya Andrews, Head of Business Development for ATK Advanced Rocket programs told BATTLESPACE.
History of the 2.75 inch rocket
The history of the 2.75 inch rocket goes back to the 1940s. The Hydra 70 rocket is a weapon derived from the 2.75 inch (70 mm) Mk 4/Mk 40 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket developed by the United States Navy for use as a free-flight aerial rocket in the late 1940s.
The Hydra 70 family of WAFAR (Wrap-Around Fin Aerial Rocket), based on the Mk 66 universal motor, was developed from the previous 2.75 inch Mk 40 motor-based FFAR (Folding Fin Aerial Rocket). The Mk 40 was originally used during the Korean and Vietnam wars, beginning a rich history of providing close air support to ground forces from about 20 different firing platforms, both fixed-wing and armed helicopters, by all U.S. armed forces. Today, the OH-58D(R) Kiowa Warrior and AH-64D Apache Longbow, as well as the Marine Corp's AH-1 Cobra carry the Hydra rocket launcher standard on its weapon pylons. To provide some stability the four rocket nozzles were scarfed at an angle to impart a slight spin to the rocket during flight.
In the U.S. Army, Hydra 70 rockets are fired from the AH-64A Apache and AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters using M261 19-tube rocket launchers, and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior using either seven-tube M260 rocket launchers. In the U.S. Marine Corps, either the M260 or M261 launchers are employed on the AH-1 Cobra and future AH-1Z Viper, depending upon the mission. The M260 and M261 are used with the Mk 66 series of rocket motor, which replaced the Mk 40 series. The Mk 66 has a reduced system weight and provides a remote fuze setting interface.
The AH-1G Cobra and the UH-1B "Huey" used a variety of launchers including the M158 seven-tube and M200 19-tube rocket launchers, however, these models have been replaced by upgraded variants in the U.S. Marine Corps. The M158 and M200 were used with the Mk 40 rocket motor. The MK40 rocket motor was replaced by the newer Mk 66 rocket motor. The M158 and M200 rocket launchers are not compatible with the Mk 66 rocket motor. The Hydra 70 rocket system is also used by the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force. The Hydra is used on the Eurocopter Tiger of the German Army.
The original production of the MK 66 rockets was done by BEI Defense. In the mid-1990s, a follow-on production contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin Ordnance Systems, which was sold to General Dynamics in 1999. Current prime contractor for the Hydra 70 rocket system is GD's Armament and Technical Products division.
The current standard U.S. Navy launchers for MK 66 rockets are the LAU-61C/A 19-round and LAU-68D/A 7-round pods. All earlier versions (up to LAU-61B/A and -68C/A) could be used only with the older MK 4/MK 40 motors. Both launchers are thermally protected and support single and ripple mode firing. The USAF's pods for the MK 66 are the 7-round LAU-131/A and 19-round LAU-130/A, and the U.S. Army's current 70 mm LWLs (Light Weight Launchers) are the M260 (7-round) and M261 (19-round). All other 2.75" rocket pods are effectively no longer in use, presumably because they are not compatible with the MK 66 motor.
In 1991, the U.S. Army and Navy issued a request for proposals for the ARS (Advanced Rocket System), which was to be a 2.75-inch rocket to replace existing Hydra 70 and 5-inch Zuni rockets. The ARS requirements called for a rocket to propel a 4.5 kg (10 lb) warhead to a speed of at least 1000 m/s (3280 fps) and an effective range of at least 10000 m (11000 yds). The rocket was to comply with Navy standards for insensitive munitions. Multiple interchangeable types of warhead were to be used, together with an inflight-programmable fuze.
A development contract was awarded to Lockheed Missiles and Space and BEI Defense in July 1992, and full-rate production was at that time expected for 1997. However, the ARS program was cancelled in 1995, after the Army had already pulled out in 1994.
General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products is the system integrator of the 2.75-inch (70mm) Hydra-70 family of rockets. These rockets include unitary and cargo warheads for use against point and area targets, providing the user a lethal and lightweight weapon system with multi-mission capability.
Hydra-70 fires from the existing 7 and 19-tube launchers and can be mounted on most rotary and fixed-wing aircraft including Apache, Cobra and F-16. Hydra-70 was the mandated rocket system for the future force, whether integrated into unmanned aircraft or robotic armed reconnaissance vehicles as part of the Future Combat System.
GDATP has produced more than two million Hydra-70 rockets since 1996 in support of the U.S. Army's Joint Attack Munition Systems Project Office.
General Dynamics APKWS/BAE APKWS II
In 1996, the U.S. Army formulated a requirement for an APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System) to close the gap in capability and cost between the unguided Hydra 70 rockets and the sophisticated AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armour guided missile. The Army needed a small and accurate weapon against non-hardened point targets especially in environments with a high risk of collateral damage, like e.g. in urban warfare. To fulfill the APKWS requirement, a guided development of the Hydra 70 rocket (also known as LCPK (Low Cost Precision Kill) 2.75-inch rocket) was selected. This missile will use the MK 66 motor with a new warhead/guidance section assembly, and will therefore be instantly compatible with all existing 70 mm rocket launchers in the U.S. inventory.
The initial variant of General Dynamics' APKWS was to use the M151 warhead combined with a low-cost semi-active laser seeker and small forward flip-out wings for flight control. The weapon was expected to have an accuracy of better than 1 m (3.3 ft) CEP.
In April 2005, the Army eventually cancelled the General Dynamics guided APKWS program, because of poor test results. The competition has since been reopened under the label APKWS II. The only restriction was that the weapon must still be based on the Hydra 70/MK 66 rocket. Competitors in the APKWS II program were Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and a BAE Systems/ Northrop Grumman/General Dynamics team. In April 2006, the BAE-led team was selected as winner by the U.S. Army, and received a 3-year contract for further development, testing, and initial production of the APKWS II missile. BAE's design is a laser-guided missile using a so-called Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS). Externally, it is similar to General Dynamics' original APKWS design.
Magellan Aerospace CRV7 Rocket Weapon System
The CRV7 Rocket Weapon System is the leading 2.75" (70mm) unguided rocket weapon system available for use on fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.
The CRV7 Rocket Weapon System (RWS) is comprised of rocket motors, launchers, and various warheads, depending upon mission objectives. The system is based on two versions of rocket motors – one for a fixed wing platform and one for a rotary wing platform.
The rocket motors are manufactured using a proprietary solid composite propellant that delivers superior energy and remains stable through extreme conditions. The CRV7 provides unrivalled performance and exceptional safety for the Customer.
CRV7 is designed for uncompromising, optimum performance for each of the particular operational environments of helicopters and fighter aircraft. The CRV7 RWS is in service today in Canada and with various forces of NATO, ASEAN, and Australasia.
In 2006 Bristol started testing a new version of the CRV7, the CRV7-PG. The weapon was introduced at Eurosatory 2006. Bristol's current owners, Magellan Aerospace, offered it for sale starting in 2007.
The PG version, for "precision guided", adds a seeker developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to the front of any version of an otherwise unmodified CRV7. The seeker uses a simple inertial guidance system though the midcourse, and homes during the terminal approach using a laser designator. Other versions offer anti-radiation seeking, or GPS guidance. Combining the laser seeker with the FAT warhead produces a capable long-range anti-tank missile that is faster and much less expensive than traditional platforms like the AGM-114 Hellfire.
A version of the CRV7-PG was also developed for special forces use, fired from a single tube mounted on a 6 x 6. In use, the weapon would be driven into the field and fired from behind cover, aiming at a designated location from a forward team
The U.K. uses the CRV7 on its Apache and Harrier aircraft. The U.K. is reported to be looking at guided alternatives.
ATK Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket System (GATR)
ATK has joined forces with Elbit Systems to produce GATR. In 2008, Elbit came to ATK to initiate a partnership to develop GATR. ATK makes the Mk90 propellant for Hydra. The project was to develop, using the same rocket motor a guided flight version of Hydra. GATR is a lightweight, affordable 70-milimeter guided rocket weapon system that fills the gap between larger, more expensive guided missiles and the current family of unguided rockets. GATR combines combat-proven performance in rocket propulsion, warheads, and laser guided seeker technologies to deliver a low-collateral solution effective against the modern enemy. GATR is compatible with existing 2.75-inch, 70-milimeter launcher hardware.
“GATR is unique in that it features lock-on before or after launch
capabilities, as well as autonomous or remote laser designation. These features enable the rocket to be deployed against targets at ranges of more than eight kilometers from fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. GATR supports integration on a full-range of attack platforms ranging from attack reconnaissance helicopters with critical weight restrictions to heavy attack platforms requiring many stowed kills per sortie. We have no need to make the rocket spin using our system.” Tonya Andrews told BATTLESPACE
There is another requirement looming which will have to be addressed by current 2.75” users, the new Insensitive Munitions Requirements (IMR). IMR addresses current problems regarding corrosion experienced on some systems, with reports of tubes being burnt through after 19 launches by one customer. Research as shown that previously reported helicopter mid-air explosions could have been caused by missiles exploding in transit to the target. The IMR will also address current missile and munition storage procedures. IMR Rules may well impinge on the development of the Anglo-French round being produced by BAE Systems and NEXTER CTA 40mm round now mandated for the U.K.’s Warrior WCSP and FRES SV Programmes. Given that the CTA is embedded in its own propellant, there should be doubts on this system passing new IMRs, particularly with the now delayed airburst round, which has an electronic fuze attached with obvious EMC implications.
GATR employs a Semi-Active Laser guidance package, employing acquisition tracking and guidance algorithms to achieve one-meter accuracy against both stationary and moving targets. GATR minimizes collateral damage, while providing stand-off deployment against a wide array of target sets. In its tactical configuration, the rocket will utilize enhanced Insensitive Munitions (IM) technologies, including an IM rocket motor and a family of IM warheads to include blast/fragmentation and penetration.
Lockheed Martin DAGR™
Lockheed Martin launched the DAGR in September 2007 and thus would appear to have a lead over its competitors in the maturity of the product.--
DAGR™ was developed with company funding to defeat targets close to civilian assets and friendly forces due to its precise accuracy and ability to minimize collateral damage.
DAGR is a semi-active laser guidance kit that adapts to 2.75-inch/70mm rockets to provide guided-rocket performance comparable to that of the precision-strike laser-guided HELLFIRE II® missile.
“We’ve leveraged existing HELLFIRE and Joint Common Missile technology to bring to market a precision weapon system that will dramatically reduce fratricide incidents common with current systems.” A Lockheed spokesman told BATTLESPACE.
The DAGR guidance kit provides 2.75-inch/70mm rockets, such as the Hydra-70 and CRV-7, lock-on-after-launch and lock-on-before-launch capability, target handoff, enhanced built-in test and laser coding from the cockpit. DAGR’s off-axis capability also increases the engagement envelope, providing additional field of view for angle of attack, moving targets and wind.
Accompanied by Lockheed Martin’s four-pack launcher, the DAGR system allows quick and easy integration on all HELLFIRE platforms including unmanned aerial vehicles and Cobra, Apache, Seahawk, Kiowa and Tiger helicopters. Fully compatible with the M299 and the M310 “smart” launchers, DAGR increases launcher load out by up to four times and provides single-switch operational flexibility, drawing upon a payload that includes DAGR, as well as multiple variants of HELLFIRE, for multi-mission capability.
Additionally, due to DAGR’s compatibility with the HELLFIRE weapon system, the usual resources for fielding a new weapon system – development, training, additional equipment and force structure – are avoided.
Doug Terrell of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control gave an in-depth briefing to journalist during the 2009 Dubai Air Show about the development of DAGR missile system.
“We’re very excited to offer the DAGR system to our HELLFIRE customers,” said Doug Terrell, director of International Business Development at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Nations employing the combat-proven HELLFIRE are provided maximum operational flexibility by the semi-active laser seeker HELLFIRE and its four warheads. As the latest addition to Lockheed Martin’s semi-active laser seeker family, DAGR complements the HELLFIRE II system by providing the same precision-strike capability in a 2.75-inch/70mm package against targets that do not require the full effect of HELLFIRE.”
Tyrell stated that DAGR had two launch customers and the system will enter LRIP early next year.
Raytheon Company and Emirates Advanced Investments (EAI) TALON
In April 2010 Raytheon Company and Emirates Advanced Investments (EAI) completed four ground-based guided flight tests of the TALON Laser-Guided Rocket putting the system on track to be the first fielded to a customer outside the United States.
The TALON LGR is an affordable, semi-active laser guidance and control kit that connects directly to the front of 2.75-inch unguided rockets currently in U.S. and international inventories.
"The Raytheon-EAI team has a proven, production-ready laser-guided
rocket," said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president. "These tests affirm we are on track to deliver an affordable, fully qualified precision weapon for attack helicopters in 2010."
The tests, using rockets built on the Raytheon-EAI production line, verified the production configuration of the TALON LGR. During the tests, the team also demonstrated TALON LGR's precision lethality with a tactical warhead flight. The rounds used during the test were preconditioned at extreme temperatures. The tests pave the way for airborne testing of the TALON LGR including a series of live firings from the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.
The TALON LGR program is part of a cooperative development agreement between Raytheon and EAI of the United Arab Emirates, which includes a
"Because of these critical successes, we are now entering the final phase of the program," said Hussain Al Hammadi, EAI's chief executive officer. "EAI national engineers are working closely with Raytheon engineers to set high standards and deliver quality products in the global aerospace industry through rapid design and production processes. We expect that fielding for TALON LGR will begin this year."
The TALON LGR is fully compatible with existing airborne and ground laser designators and requires no modifications to rocket launchers currently in the inventory. TALON LGR also fills the critical operational capability gap between unguided rockets and guided heavy anti-tank missiles.
BAE Systems Army’s Advanced Precision Kill Weapon
System II (APKWS II)
BAE Systems has the double advantage of U.S. DoD funding and a customer the USMC for its APKWS system.
In April 2006, the BAE-led team was selected as winner by the U.S. Army, and received a 3-year contract for further development, testing, and initial production of the APKWS II missile. BAE's design is a laser-guided missile using a so-called Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS). Externally, it is similar to General Dynamics' original APKWS design.
In April 2006 APKWS II completed environmental tests that validate the weapon’s ability to withstand battlefield conditions. Coupled with successful flight tests last year, these results demonstrate the maturity of BAE Systems’ APKWS II offering.
APKWS II provides a low-cost, lightweight guided weapon that is effective against soft and lightly armoured targets to fill the gap between the 70mm rocket and the Hellfire missile. The system will be used on all Army aircraft currently using the 70mm rocket. BAE Systems' environmental tests verified that locating the weapon's Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS™) within the rocket's mid-body — with wings and optics sealed within the guidance section — protects the unit from sand, dust, vibration, ice, and other environmental hazards likely to be found in combat situations. In addition, a fully assembled 35-pound rocket dropped directly on its nose from a height of 3 feet sustained no damage to the guidance section — further confirming the ruggedness of the design for real-world operations.
"We kept the war fighter uppermost in our design to put together a solution that combines proven performance, mature and production-ready technology, and affordability," said Frank Wilson, BAE Systems’ director of precision targeting systems. "This is not a proof-of-concept or prototype unit, but a design that is flight-proven and has now completed a rigorous environmental test program."
BAE Systems delivered 80 guidance sections for the original APKWS program and continues to produce additional seekers to support the Army’s 24-month-or-less system design and development schedule. The company’s industry team, which includes Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, is committed to fielding an effective and affordable APKWS II weapon system as quickly as possible.
BAE Systems' APKWS II solution locates the guidance section behind the warhead to enable use of the current Hydra 70 family of warheads and fuzes without modification. The guided rocket performed better than the Army’s requirements in seven test firings, with the average distance from laser spot to impact less than half the requirement when tested at distances ranging from 1.5 kilometers to 5.5 kilometers.
"We have a long history with the Hydra 70 and have invested significantly in design improvements to meet the Army’s needs for a low-cost low-collateral-damage precision guided rocket," Wilson said.
The same DASALS technology used in BAE Systems' APKWS II offering also is incorporated in the Army's Precision Guided Mortar Munitions program, which is now undergoing system testing.
In April the US Navy approved low-rate production of the APKWS after the weapons system passed its Milestone C. The USMC plans to initially deploy APKWS on its AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. The Navy decision follows successful testing of the weapons system from the AH-1W helicopter in January.
Given the numbers of unguided 2.75” rocket systems around the world, the race is now on to fulfil worldwide requirements with guided systems. The big hitters discussed above have seen the opportunities and are spending money at a prodigious rate to win these contracts. As we have seen, each entrant has its own advantages, time will tell who wins.
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