This is intended for people interested in the subject of military guns and their ammunition, with emphasis on automatic weapons.
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In a follow up to the Fletcher 4 shot ground based APKWS 70mm launcher, Arnold Defense has come out with a new 23 shot version:
"The MLHS is a new surface-based, 23-round, 2.75-inch/70mm precision-guided rocket launcher. When coupled with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), the most accurate precision guided weapon in its class, the MLHS is set to transform the surface defence world by delivering a low-cost, high-capacity surgical strike capability."
The 4 shot Fletcher is short and light enough that it can be mounted on Pickup Trucks and other small ground vehicles:
"The launcher seems to have similar footprint to a .50 caliber machine gun. The empty launcher weighs only 30 pounds and the individual missiles 32 pounds."
This suggests that the new 23 Shot MLHS may be possible to mount to helicopter deliverable vehicles such as the Army's new 'Infantry Mobility Vehicle.'
This would allow this 'Mini MLRS' to be rapidly deployed anywhere a helicopter can land, and used as either an independent strike vehicle, or as a system designed to provide fire support to infantry / SF. This would be especially useful in areas where the enemy has a functioning AA/SAM/MANPAD capability; with the Mini MLRS ground troops can get 'air strike' levels of fire support, but from a ground based vehicle 5km away.
What's the operational range of the 70mm rockets? Warhead weight?
"What's the operational range of the 70mm rockets? Warhead weight?"
Current range is listed as 5km-8km depending on the source.
Reportedly, NAMMO is working on a new motor that extends range to 12+KM:
Before APKWS, operators of rocket launchers were restricted to avoid collateral damage, “but now we have pinpoint accuracy, now we have a max effective range of about 8 kilometers,” Hager said, adding Nammo is working on a modified rocket motor that will extend to 12-15 kilometers.
In terms of warheads, they are modular in that you can screw on different ones for different applications. But the standard is the '17 pounder':
The M229 HE Warhead is an elongated version of the M151 Warhead and is commonly referred to as the "17 Pounder" warhead. The M229 HE warhead is currently in the inventory. It was designed and developed to increase the lethality and destructiveness of the 10 pound high explosive warhead. The total weight of the loaded, unfuzed warhead is 16.1 pounds (7.3 kg) [other sources report an unfuzed weight of 16.4 pounds] of which 4.8 pounds (2.18 kg) is composite B-4 HE. Upon detonation, the warhead fragments into thousands of small, high velocity, fragments. Temperature limits for storage and firing the M229 are -65 F to +150 F.
And then NAMMO has a new one designed for destroying buildings and fortifications:
And some video it in action:
Current 19 shot launchers are listed as 82lbs empty, 660lbs loaded.
So we could roughly guess around ~750lbs for a loaded, 23 shot MLRS launcher.
For a relatively light weight, you get 23x 17lb warheads with a ~3m accuracy range out to 5km or more. And due to the lack or recoil, the system can be bolted onto pickup trucks and small all terrain vehicles.
I think it has a lot of potential.
Here's a good article on the APKWS and Fletcher, the 4 shot ground based version:
"A Fletcher launcher with rockets weighs 59 kg (130 pounds). The compact and lightweight Fletcher launcher can be mounted on any vehicle that normally mounts a heavy (12.7mm) machine-gun or RWS (Remote Weapons Station).
Current versions of Fletcher are being marketed to special operations forces that use many lighter off-road vehicles. For example, DAGOR is a two ton light truck that can carry 1.4 tons or nine troops. It can be carried inside a CH-47 or slung under a UH-60 helicopter. DAGOR can also be dropped via parachute and be ready to roll within two minutes of reaching the ground."
APKWS has always been able to use laser designators on a helicopter, or with troops on the ground. The laser seeker can actually see reflected laser light out to 14 kilometers but the rocket motor in most 70mm laser guided rockets is only effective at between five and ten kilometers.
In 2010 the U.S. Marine Corps tested APKWS II on their helicopter gunships and were so impressed that they bought many more. The marines armed their AH-1W helicopter gunships with the guided 70mm rockets and in 2012 marine AH-1Ws have fired over a hundred APKWS II in Afghanistan and none of them missed.
The price of the new 70mm missile is now about $30,000 each. This is typical for these weapons and about a third less than a smart bomb and less than a third of what a Hellfire missile costs. In tests the APKWS hit within a meter (a few feet) of the aiming point."
Unless they've changed something without telling me (disgraceful!) the APKWS relies on semi-active laser homing. In other words, the target must be illuminated by a laser throughout the missile's flight. That means a self-contained system must (a) be able to see the target initially, and (b) maintain a line-of-sight to the target thereafter. This works very well in a totally flat desert landscape, less well when the topography is varied or there are buildings or vegetation.
I suppose it would be possible to send a separate illuminator aloft to designate the target, but that requires the added complication of having to operate a UAS in conjunction with the missile system.
"Unless they've changed something without telling me (disgraceful!) the APKWS relies on semi-active laser homing. In other words, the target must be illuminated by a laser throughout the missile's flight. That means a self-contained system must (a) be able to see the target initially, and (b) maintain a line-of-sight to the target thereafter. This works very well in a totally flat desert landscape, less well when the topography is varied or there are buildings or vegetation.
I suppose it would be possible to send a separate illuminator aloft to designate the target, but that requires the added complication of having to operate a UAS in conjunction with the missile system."
I suspect that it would work best in tandem with infantry scouts / forward observers.
MLRS is dropper off in one helicopter, with driver and gunner. 2nd helicopter drops off the infantry vehicle with a squad of 8-9 troops.
Vehicles drive together toward to target location.
Then the MLRS is parked somewhere within 5km of the target, while the infantry either drive or walk closer to the target. Then they laze the target, radio the MLRS, and they launch.
For regular infantry use, a similar situation. Infantry get into contact, they laze the enemy location, and then call fire support to the MLRS parked within 5km.
Since the Mini MLRS is so mini, its much more likely that it can be included in close fire support then larger systems like artillery. That, and it only requires 1-2 minimally trained men to fire, vs having dedicated trained artillerymen.
Or a medium helicopter can carry several UGV (such as Milrem THeMIS) with that weapon station, and positioning them on a perimeter or in formation
"Or a medium helicopter can carry several UGV (such as Milrem THeMIS) with that weapon station, and positioning them on a perimeter or in formation."
Absolutely. I expect APKWS will be a main armament for UGV's once they start to come onto line.
Unlike an Autocannon, these don't require any weapon stabilization, or require a vehicle large enough to handle recoil forces.
The flat, thin nature of the MLRS would go well with these low, little UAV's:
gatnerd said...Then the MLRS is parked somewhere within 5km of the target, while the infantry either drive or walk closer to the target. Then they laze the target, radio the MLRS, and they launch.
I think that Tony pointed out that the rocket is not "lock after launch", so you need to park your mini MLRS in direct view of the target so the rocket "see" the laser point before launch.
But maybe they included some inertial guidance capability so the rocket can be fired in an indirect fire fashion, then lock on target during the descending part of the trajectory (lock after launch)?
OTOH M230 and a good enough stabilization system would not weight so much and it could offer more shots and certain capability of indirect fire. Consider also a 81mm mortar self-loaded, of course
My point is that a Chinook could carry internally 4 THeMIS armed with different stations and offer an immediate support fire to a platoon
That's a good point; I'm not exactly sure. There are numerous mentions of the laser seeker having a range of 14km. I took that to mean that it can detect a laser from 14km away.
The DASALS seeker is actually 4 seekers, one on each fin. So presumably at least one is pointing towards the ground. And the seeker does not activate until 0.5 seconds after launch.
So I figured that so long as the rocket is pointed in the correct direction of the target, once it gets airborne it should be able to "look down" with one of its wings sensors and pick up the laser and fly towards it.
However I don't know if that is the case.