<XMP><BODY></xmp>Lurker Anti-tank missiles

Updated 6-6-14

Suitcase Anti-Tank Missiles and Lurker missiles.

        I was thinking the other day about the first generation ATGWs such as Sagger. Most countries had some version of these and nearly all used a guidance system called Manual Control to Line Of Sight or MCLOS. MCLOS systems required that the operator watched both the target and the missile at the same time while controling the missile with a joystick.

        While this could be a handful some good results were achieved in action and this control system was also used for the Blowpipe SAM. An advantage of MCLOS was the operator did not need to be that close to the launcher, which was reassuring since tank crews soon got into the habit of shelling any launch sites they spotted. The launchers themselves were very simple - some were just a rail, some were launched from the carrying case and some such as the German Cobra 2000 and Mamba had just had a handle on top and were jumped into the air by a secondary rocket or nozzle.
        The capability of a missile to be launched from a different position to the operator is termed “Separation”. Systems such as the British Swingfire could be used with the launcher fully concealed from the target's view. Successful use of a system that used Separation depended upon a property known as “gathering”, which was the process of bringing the missile into the operator's line of sight so that he could see it and then maneuver it to intercept the target. For some MCLOS systems gathering was a manual operation dependent on the controller's skill. In the more advanced MCLOS weapons such as Swingfire gathering was automatic and performed by a program in the guidance system.

        The job of the ATGW operator got simpler with the adoption of TCA/ SACLOS Guidance but launchers also got more complex and the operator had to be at the firing position.

        With this in mind it suddenly occurred to me that there might be a niche for an electo-optically guided (laser homing) missile that launches like a Sagger. The weight of the weapon would be nearly all missile and the launcher could be hidden under a shrub bush, up a tree or in a ditch while the controller was hundreds of metres away.

        Maybe it is not a tripod version of the Hellfire that infantry and special forces need but a suitcase version?
        The standard Hellfire may be too heavy to manpack but since the operator of the ground-launched version is unlikely be able to see as far as a pilot this version may not need to have the range of a heli-launched weapon and therefore can carry less fuel. Alternately the seeker head of the Hellfire could be mounted on a smaller missile.

        Comments made by Carlton Meyer made me consider that such a missile could alternately use fibre-optic TV guidance. The controller could not only be some distance from the launchers but the launchers also out of the line of sight of the target.
        The missiles can be positioned to also serve as surveillance cameras, the operator switching between views until he finds something of interest. He then launches the missile that has the best view of the target and guides it to impact.
        The British Vigilant missile of the 1950s and 60s had a remote mounting option consisting of a light tripod with a pair of launch boxes, a control cable and electric servos that could rotate the launchers 340° in eight seconds.

        Since I first drafted this article in 1999 the Israeli Spike ATGW has entered service with several nations. This offers the operator the options of both fire-and-forget and fibre-optic guidance. According to Jane's Infantry Weapons (2002) the use of Fibre optic guidance allows targets to be engaged at ranges greater than those at which the IR seeker head can lock onto targets in fire-and- forget mode. The Fibre-optic option therefore increases range from 2,500m to in excess of 4,000m. Spain is also planning to adopt a Fibre-optic weapon, the Raytheon MACAM.
        Systems such as Spike require the operator to be at the launch position but it is likely that we will soon see systems that allow the operator to fire and guide missiles that are positioned at various different locations. For an established line of defence the operator may be sitting in a secure bunker miles away while missiles are fired from camouflaged positions or hardened unmanned pillboxes.

        Most modern Infantry ATGWs such as Spike use a launch tube that is also used as a transport container. Guidance in the latest models uses a nose-mounted Imaging Infra-red sensor that can be locked onto the image of the intended target before firing. Systems such as Spike also offer the option of fibre-optic guidance allowing the operator to steer the missile himself. With a few modifications to software and hardware such ATGW systems have the potential to offer the user the option of separation.

        Such a missile system could be used in several ways.
        Firstly, the missile can be “shoulder-fired” in the manner of current designs like Javelin and Spike. This mode of firing is likely to be used when the anti-tank team is on the move and does not have time to position launch tubes.
        Since the transport container also serves as the launcher several tubes can be placed around the firing position and connected to a control box by cables. This allows all of the missiles carried by an Anti-armour section to be ready to fire. A folding lightweight stand will raise the Launch Tube Assembly off the ground although doubtless some will be taped to tree branches, propped up by sticks or placed on other field improvised mounts. Some may be placed behind ridgelines and launched “blind”. Since these mountings cannot be traversed the operator can only use Fire and Forget Lock-On Before Launch (LOBL) mode if the target passes before the field of view of the missile's seeker head. For this reason the usual guidance for this mode of firing will be Fibre-optic.
        When the missile is fired the operator has the option of an auto-gathering program that will fly the missile into a position between him and the target so he can relate the seeker's view to his own. If the seeker already has a good view of the target he may not bother with the gathering program and simply fly the missile straight at the target. It is possible that the missile will also be capable of Lock-On After Launch (LOAL). The operator will fly the missile manually until he has a good view of the target, then lock-on the seeker, freeing him to fire another missile and engage another target.
        When mounted on a vehicle or servo-tripod then LOBL will be more practical.
        An interesting idea is for the Anti-armour team to utilize a “pop-up” attack tactic by combining shoulder-launching with separation. The missile is fired from an infantryman's shoulder but another Soldier is in control of the missile allowing the firer to immediately take cover or vacate the launch position.

        The Fibre Optic guided missile offers some interesting other applications. Several writers have suggested that such a missile could be used as a reconnaissance system.

        Another potential application is that a missile can be used to lay fibre-optic lines for secure communication. A missile without a warhead can be used to lay several kilometers of line in under a minute, even through areas that are mined or impassible to men or vehicles. Mortars could also be used to lay lines and would have more range but using a missile allows the line to be treaded through obstacles such as woods or under overhead power cables rather than being draped across them.
        Such operations will be easier in close terrain if the wire-laying missile has a relatively low speed, allowing it to pick its way through tree trunks etc. A missle along the lines of the German Mamba would probably be best. This had broad wings and a secondary ventral exhaust that produced lift and eliminated the need for a launcher. A liquid-fueled motor that could be refueled in the field so the projectile could be reused would also be useful.
Laying Phone Lines with Rockets in World War One
Laying Phone Line with Bazooka

Fibre Optic Guided Missiles
Developements in Dismounted Anti-Armour Weapons.

        For a vehicle such as a tank to fire from cover often takes several seconds. The tank must roll out from behind cover, acquire its target, fire and roll back behind cover. For lighter vehicles such as trucks armed with ATGWs or Recoilless Rifles the procedure is much the same. During this time the vehicle can be detected and fired upon. Tanks may shrug off a few hits, softer vehicles may be wreaked. A tactically more prudent approach may be to carry man-portable ATGWs or Thermobaric weapons on the vehicle. The vehicle remains in cover while an infantry team moves to a firing point and fires the weapon from a concealed position.
        If we add weapons capable of non-LOS launch into this mix we see some interesting potential. With certain weapons such as mortars, artillery or air-delivered weapons the infantry team only needs a radio or field telephone to direct the fires. The infantry team may carry a laser designator to paint a target for electo-optically guided weapons. In the near future rather than field glasses the infantry team may carry a high-powered digital camera. An image of the target and its relative position is passed back to the concealed launch vehicle and used to program a missile. The missile is fired and auto-gathers to a point where it can recognize and lock on to its intended target. I have talked about an infantry team directing the fires of a nearby vehicle but there is little limit to the distance of separation. Already some troops control the fires of aircraft or formations many miles distant. An attack may be initiated and directed by an operative sitting outside a cafe, apparently playing with his phone.
        A number of weapon systems currently exist that can be launched in a non-LOS configuration. Very soon we will seem vertical launch systems becoming more common for land warfare and firing from a concealed position will become common practice. In another article I have speculated on a tank-type vehicle that includes VLS missiles as one of its main weapons. Other types of vehicle might also be used. A discrete civilian-appearing truck might be used for internal security operations. Trailers of missiles may be parked and camouflaged at various locations on a battlefield and called on for fire support by infantry teams several kilometres distant. Logically this idea can be extended to airdropping pods of missiles into an area of operations.

By the Author of the Scrapboard :

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

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