By David Crane
defrev at gmail dot com
Speaking of sub-Hellfire-yield laser-guided missiles, Thales UK Air Systems Division (ASD) has introduced a new low-cost, lightweight multi-role missile called, appropirately enough, the Lightweight Multirole Missile (a.k.a. Lightweight Multi-role Missile)–or LMM for short–as a follow-on to the Starstreak Self-Propelled High-Velocity Missile (SP HVM) a.k.a. Starstreak Multi-role Missile (surface-to-air/surface-to-surface missile) and Starburst surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, leveraging technology from both platforms. The LMM can be deployed from/employed by both manned and unmanned fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter/rotorcraft systems.
According to Thales UK ASD officials, the LMM laser-guided multirole missile will be able to…
defeat a "sensible target set", including any/all enemy air land and sea vehicles likely to be encountered by Coalition Forces in the asymmetric battlespace, including urban warfare environments. The list of subnational-conflict-type targets that come under the destroyable list via the new missile includes, but is not necessarily limited to the following: Technicals(civilian weaponized trucks), explosives-laiden vans, any/all other civilian light vehicles, slow-moving manned propeller aircraft and rotorcraft, small UAS/UAVs (including unmanned helicopters/rotorcraft), rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), bunkers, houses, jet skis, and even tracked armored vehicles.
It would appear that the LMM precision-guided missile will be going head-to-head against the various parallel-development laser-guided 70mm/2.75" Hydra rockets being developed by several U.S. companies and the Spike shoulder-launched, fire-and-forget precision-guided missile. Both the laser-guided Hydras and LMM are designed specifically for those occasions when you need a precision-guided missile, but a AGM-114K Hellfire II (or Longbow Hellfire Hellfire III) or Javelin is just too much punch.
The Lightweight Multirole Missile weighs 28 lbs (13 kg), carries a 6.8-lb (3-kg) blast/fragmentation warhead, and is powered by a two-stage solid propellant motor made by Roxel Propulsion Systems (RPS). The LMM has an effective engagement range of up to 4.3 nautical miles (nm), or 8 kilometers (km), and may incorporate semi-active laser guidance to hone in on the target. Aviation Week reports that "target acquisition, designation and tracking are provided by onboard systems, while target confirmation and final launch authority are given by the ground station operator."
Two potential LMM aerial launching platforms are already being tested, the BAE Systems Fury armed/weaponized UAS/UAV and the Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 autonomous unmanned rotorcraft a.k.a. unmanned mini-helicopter. Both aircraft have been outfitted with pairs of LMMs. As of this writing, DefenseReview is only aware of a static live-fire test being conducted. If an aerial launch of the LMM has been peformed, we’re unaware of it.
Fury is basically the armed reconnaissance/close-air-support version of BAE’s Herti UAS/UAV, and the Camcopter S-100 autonomous umanned helicopter/rotorcraft is a slick-looking VTOL platform that, according to the Schiebel website, "can be programmed to fly an autonomous mission profile via a simple point-and-click graphical user interface, or can be directed manually. In both modes, the aerial vehicle is automatically stabilized via redundant Inertial Navigation Systems (INS). Navigation is accomplished using redundant Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers."
The LMM can also be deployed from manned helicopters/rotorcraft like the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the Bell AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter and the AgustaWestland Future Lynx maritime surveillance and attack helicopter.
Photo Credit(s): Thales
UAS – Unmanned Aircraft System
UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
VTOL – Vertical Take-Off and Landing