New Guided Missiles, Programmable Munitions Enhancing The Infantry Precision Fire Effects

The ‘Smart Weapon’ approach is a more complex, expensive solution that could offer much higher precision – at the disadvantage of weight, complexity and cost. Lightweight weapons employ ‘fire and forget’ systems, enabling the missile to home-in on a designated target. Missiles are packing ‘tandem’ warheads for direct attack or Explosive Formed Projectile warheads for ‘top attack’, both capable of defeating even the world’s heaviest, most protected tanks. These weapons are represented by the Spike MR or LR and Javelin – both represent this weapon class, using ‘fire and forget’ electro-optical guidance. By the early 2000s Spike gained a head start over Javelin, selected by a number of European armies while Javelin was focused mainly on the U.S. military. However, in recent years, Javelin is gaining wider reach worldwide. The two weapons are currently competing head to head in two major markets – France and India both plan large scale acquisitions of thousand of missiles to equip their infantry units. Based on lessons learned and user requirements, both weapons are being enhanced to become effective against wider target sets.

The Javelin missile and the weapon's target acquisition unit use similar IR sensors to acuire the target and guide the missile on the final attack. Photo: Raytheon

For the future, such weapons are promising a combination of ‘fire and forget’ and ‘man in the loop’ capability, features currently supported only by the LR member of the Spike family, offering optimal tactics for different operational situations.

For the smaller weapons electro-optical (EO) guidance has sofar been considered a costly option reserved only for special missions. But state-of-the-art commercial off the shelf technology opens new capabilities for EO seekers. Dual-mode guidance utilizing imaging sensor as laser seekers has the potential to revolutionize laser guidance, by introducing low cost, light-weight yet highly accurate means for target acquisition and weapon guidance. Current laser designators employ pulse lasers to generate high-power laser beams. A new type of laser designator is employing low-power laser diodes to generate Continuous Wave (CW) beams, operating at relatively low power levels and available for much lower cost.

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