PARIS — A Cold War missile designed to take out Soviet tank formations has taken a new step toward providing a possible solution to the threat of swarms of fast attack craft operated by the Iranians and others.
MBDA said Monday it had successfully destroyed three small vessels in a first salvo firing of the Brimstone Sea Spear variant from a fixed platform moored off the coast of Scotland.
Dual Mode Brimstone is normally fired by Royal Air Force Tornado strike aircraft to destroy land targets, often in complex environments, using either a semi-active laser or millimeter wave seekers (MMW).
Its success in Afghanistan, and more recently Libya, has led to the missile being looked at by France, the USA and others for air attack, and in some cases, naval applications.
But using just the millimeter wave seeker, Sea Spear is on track to migrate from an air-launched land-attack weapon to a canister-launched surface-to-surface maritime missile for coastal defense or mounting in warships from about 14 meters and up.
It’s a case of the wheel coming full circle for Brimstone. The missile, fitted only with the MMW radar, was originally designed to attack swarms of Soviet armor in the event of the Cold War heating up.
But the British urgently required a man-in-the-loop capability to better attack individual targets in Iraq and Afghanistan,and the Dual Mode Brimstone was rapidly developed by MBDA.
Now, the autonomous fire-and-forget capability is back in vogue, this time to deal with swarms of attack craft rather than tanks.
Mark Sheehan, MBDA’s export marketing development executive, told reporters during a Paris Air Show briefing that a salvo firing of the weapon hit one moving and two static targets and destroyed all three, 13 meter-long craft targeted at a range of 4.5 kilometers.
The MBDA executive said it was the first autonomous fire-and-forget salvo firing against a maritime swarm target. Target acquisition can be via an electro-optical or radar system.
Sheehan said the 50 kilogram-class Brimstone Sea Spear had a “significant utility beyond the range of most medium-caliber guns” carried by surface warships.
MBDA is now focusing much of its effort on a launcher, and executives said the next step in the weapons development is to fit the Sea Spear system to a moving naval platform.
A 14-meter boat could carry up to four missile canisters, a 25-meter craft 10 canisters, with larger combat ships able to carry up to 12 weapons in a single launcher. ■
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