This is intended for people interested in the subject of military guns and their ammunition, with emphasis on automatic weapons.
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ZailC said...The spread of ground launching the APKWS isn't quite the game-changer its vendors are advertising, though it will place a premium on detecting and destroying designators (as opposed to counter-battery fires). It seems to me that given an adequate laser-warning system, software-only modifications to the APKWS would make it a dandy anti-designator weapon.
Well the US has been flogging this ground launched rocket package for decades now without getting very far. For use from airborne platforms it obviously will work quite well, but in the ground role a 81 mm or 120 mm mortar would be a better candidate. The rocket will need drogue fins for its minimum range to be much less than its effective range.
Looking at the burn rate for the 70mm rocket motor:
The APKWS Seeker doesn't activate until 0.5 seconds after launch, at which point the rocket is already traveling 1000fps.
As such, I imagine the seeker must have a fairly broad 'cone of detection' with some ability to look downward, as any type of upwardly angled launch (as we see in the previous Fletcher design) would place the rocket 300'+ in the air pointing upwards before the seeker activates.
But, the Fletcher seems to work:
The FLETCHER 70mm rocket launcher system test firing took place late in May 2018 at an undisclosed location in USA at the specific request of an, also undisclosed, group of end users. The aim of the test-firing was to prove the concept of FLETCHER when used as a ground-based weapon system and to demonstrate the capability to a range of interested specialist users from across the globe. The test firing was a huge success, achieving a 100% target hit rate at ranges between 2 km and 5 km.
gatnerd said...The test firing was a huge success, achieving a 100% target hit rate at ranges between 2 km and 5 km.
I suspect that what this tells you is that the test ground was fairly level and uncluttered. It would be interesting to see an analysis of the effective range and hit probability of the system in a variety of circumstances, including moving targets which in average terrain would be appearing and disappearing behind buildings, vegetation, or even sand dunes etc.
Turns out BAE spells out the exact specs:
"I suspect that what this tells you is that the test ground was fairly level and uncluttered. It would be interesting to see an analysis of the effective range and hit probability of the system in a variety of circumstances, including moving targets which in average terrain would be appearing and disappearing behind buildings, vegetation, or even sand dunes etc."
Yes, I'm sure that is the case, and that combat will be more challenging.
BAE claims a 93% hit rate from aircraft so far by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even a 50% reduction due to ground combat use would put it at 46.5% hit rate, which would be pretty fantastic. There really is no comparably accurate or effective weapon that can be mounted on small, helicopter delivered vehicles that I'm aware of.
autogun said...I suspect that what this tells you is that the test ground was fairly level and uncluttered.
This makes a lot of sense, as that describes the parts of the USA where there is sufficient space to test such things while minimizing any collateral damage. That being said, the National Training Center has lots of mountainous terrain and is very large. While I've never been there, colleagues of mine modeled it in 3D in a project for the US Army, populating it with various building and vehicle modules, so I've "flown" though it many times, though that was a couple of decades ago.
The mortars would certainly be preferred when available, though time of flight might favor the rockets, especially for moving targets. I suspect the use case for the rockets is for patrols out beyond heavy mortar range, but anything that can carry the rocket pod should be able to carry a light mortar and its ammo. A 60mm with guided munitions might do just as well, and would provide similar mobility advantages. Since the rounds are designated, you're not going to get a true MLRS effect, so the rate of fire isn't going to be an issue. I'm sure there are still some conditions where the rocket might be preferred, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
In terms of vehicle based mortars, the Marine's briefly fielded, then ditched, the 120mm M327 EFSS:
It was designed to fire the Raytheon PERM, GPS guided mortar:
-GPS Guided so can be fired non-line of sight targets
-$18,000 cost vs $30,000 for APKWS
-Substantial increase in power - 35lb shell vs 16lb for APKWS
-Requires known GPS cordinates to fire
-Requires working GPS (not useful in the presence of GPS jamming / Anti Sat)
-20M accuracy range for PERM vs 1m for APKWS
-Increased power increases collateral damage for Urban use
-Cannot hit moving targets
-Cannot target individual rooms of a building
-Requires substantially more manpower and vehicles then APKWS
This last issue is the most substantial. The M327 requires 2x vehicles to employ. 1 vehicle tows the 1,283lb Mortar. Another vehicle is needed to tow the 30 round ammo carriage, which is another ~1300lbs. And these vehicles + mortar cannot be transported by helicopter, only by a V22 Osprey.
To fire, the mortar requires a crew of 4 gunners.
By comparison, the APKWS MLRS weighs ~750lbs loaded with 23rds, and can be transported by 1x small vehicle that fits on a helicopter. And to fire, it requires only a gunner and a laser pointer man.
APKWS II still costs 30k$ a pop, even when it was defined for cost below 10k.
It is expensive, even for USA, if it is pretended to be used commonly. It is not very useful if the rocket is not guided (minikatiusha?)
An 81mm or 120mm mortar can be fielded by one or two UGV and it can shoot either guided or unguided ammo. I find it more flexible than APKWS for dismounted units. Indeed, in the 2030, airborne units with UGV armed with 30mm cannon and mortar could carry a very serious punch from the first minute
How is a small UGV going to operate a Mortar?
As far as cost, APKWS is really not that expensive in the scheme of military spending.
For the cost of one V22 Osprey, you can buy 2,400 APKWS.
For the cost of one Eurofighter Typhoon, 3900 APWS.
Keep in mind that doesn't even include the outrageous maintenance and fuel costs of flying these aircraft.
1-2x APKWS per flight hour is typical.
Whereas a few ground based APKWS obviates the need for a plane during close support in many instances.