Smarter and Faster

Modern warfare needs have spurred a demand for smart ammunitions

Yunus Dar

Around the world a rise in conflicts has increased the demand for smart ammunition. The demand has led many global defence companies to focus on producing guided munitions, which are mostly autonomous, GPS-enabled, and make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to home in on a target. The key players in the global weapons market include Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Corporation, BAE Systems, MBDA, Kongsberg Group (Norway), Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, L-3 Technologies, FN Herstal S.A, Northrop Grumman Corporation (US), among others.

Excalibur Artillery from Raytheon

In June this year, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems enabled its Spice 250 with AI alongside automatic target recognition to be used with scene-matching technology. The electro-optic scene-matching technology involves uploading terrain data onto the bomb and combining it with real-time electro-optic imagery. This allows the weapon to work in GPS-denied environments. The technology allows the bomb to navigate and correct its trajectory on its own. The weapon uses its AI and ‘deep learning’ technologies to identity moving ground targets and distinguish them from other objects and terrain, employing the 3D models uploaded to the bomb as well as algorithms. The smart weapon ‘learns’ to distinguish its target from a moving convoy and destroy it.

Rafael also developed the Firefly tactical weapon system, as an innovative, miniature electro-optical tactical loitering munition designed for light manoeuvring ground forces such as infantry, marines or Special Forces. “Firefly is designed for the dismounted soldier fighting within the urban arena where situation awareness is limited, enemy is behind the cover, and precision is critical,” the company says. Firefly is a new variant of Rafael’s Spike family precision guided missiles, and features a dual seeker, target tracker, homing algorithms, computer vision, safe and arm-fusing mechanism and Human Machine Interface (HMI). The weapon leaves little hope for the enemy hiding behind a cover.

Rafael has been working on a number of such technologies and has garnered considerable orders from nations across the world. The company’s Iron Dome air defence system remains the most dependable threat protection system. “With over 2,000 combat interceptions and almost 90 per cent success rate, Iron Dome features multi-mission capabilities, scalability and mobility, to provide both stationary and manoeuvring forces the ultimate defence solution against a wide spectrum of threats, from very short range mortars and rockets, to UAVs, aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary), up to threats launched from ranges of 70 km on land and at sea (C-DOME),” Rafael told FORCE.

Rafael’s Spike LR 2 is a fifth generation, multi-purpose, multi-platform missile, designed for modern warfare with almost full commonality to the Spike missile legacy. Its modern electro-optical seeker includes a high quality un-cooled IR sensor and an advanced high definition colour day sensor. The LR 2 seeker includes capabilities of a smart target tracker which includes AI features, thus maintaining target lock-on, even under extreme conditions against a large variety of targets, with almost no need for gunner intervention. Spike LR 2 is designed to defeat the toughest targets in the battlefield, including modern main battle tanks, fast vehicles or bunkers. “SPIKE LR 2 has a range of 5.5 km when fired from ground launchers (an increase of more than 35 per cent above the 4 km range of the original SPIKE LR) and up to 10 km when fired from a helicopter (using alternative option of RF Data link),” Rafael told FORCE.

Rafael came out with SPIKE ER2 in 2018, a 5th generation extended range missile, designed to enable Joint 5th generation tactical overmatch for ground manoeuvre, rotary dominance and naval deterrence. SPIKE ER2 features a number of new capabilities, and a combination of greater standoff range of up to 10 km for surface launch, and 16 km when fired from a helicopter, NLOS engagement capabilities (launch to grid coordinate), and high lethality. According to the company, SPIKE ER2 seeker was designed for the modern battle arena enabling ‘hotswap’ capabilities of sensory swap between IR to day midflight (ideal for detection of camouflaged targets).

Among the latest anti-tank munitions is Saab’s NLAW (Next generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon), which is a shoulder-launched, Overfly Top Attack, missile system that makes it the true tank killer for light forces that operate dismounted in all environments including built up areas. The missile’s guidance system uses Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS). The system is activated by the firer and it tracks the target for two-three seconds before firing, the guidance system then calculates the predicted flight path to ensure a hit, it is a fire and forget device.

The firer can select overfly top attack (OTA), for use against main battle tanks and armoured vehicles, or direct attack (DA) against soft-skinned vehicles and other targets. In OTA mode, the guidance algorithm optimises the approach for an elevated flight path with a proximity fuze and in direct attack mode, the sensor system that maintains height is simply disconnected and the missile is impact fuzed.

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