Air Weapons: The Smallest Smart Bomb

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August 8, 2014:   British Defense firm Thales has developed an unpowered version of its LMM (Lightweight Multi-role Missile). The original LMM is a 76mm (diameter), 13 kg (28.6 pounds) missile with a range of eight kilometers that uses laser (beam riding) guidance. It can be fired from the air or the ground.

The new version is called FFLMM and is LMM without the rocket motor. That means FFLMM weighs only six kg (13 pounds) and is 700mm (27.5 inches) long. FFLMM has larger fins for guidance and lift so that from a high altitude FFLMM has a range of at least two kilometers. FFLMM also has GPS and INS (inertial) guidance in addition to laser. This FFLMM can be used as a lightweight smart bomb. A U.S. defense firm is marketing FFLMM as “Fury.”

Small missiles like LMM have become more common in the last five years. This is due to technical advances. For example over the last two decades several firms have figured out how to turn 70mm (2.75 inch) unguided rockets into laser guided missiles. All these 70mm guided rockets are basically 13.6 kg (30 pound) 70mm rockets with a laser seeker, a 2.7 kg (six pound) warhead, and a range of about six kilometers when fired from the air. Laser designators on a helicopter, or with troops on the ground, are pointed at the target and the laser seeker in the front of the DAGR homes in on the reflected laser light.

These 70mm designs are finally starting to get orders and there is plenty of competition. Back in 2010 the U.S. began using the 15.6 kg (34.5 pound) Griffin in Afghanistan, fired from UAVs and gunships. The Griffin came about because the existing small missile (Hellfire) was often too big. The Hellfire II weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters. The Griffin has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead which is larger, in proportion to its size, than the one carried by Hellfire. Griffin has pop-out wings, allowing it to glide and thus has a longer range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire. UAVs can carry more of the smaller missiles, typically two of them in place of one Hellfire. There are similar arrangements for LMM. The LMM is believed to have the same design approach as the Griffin, including a fairly large warhead (over 5 kg).

The British Royal Navy has become the first customer for the LMM, ordering a thousand of them in 2011 for its new Lynx Wildcat helicopter. The LMM will enter service by the end of the decade and the FFLMM shortly thereafter. The light weight of the FFLMM makes it useful for many smaller UAVs.

In 2013 Turkish firm joined with Thales to develop and market a ship mounted remote control launcher for LMM. The Aselsan Missile Launching System (MLS) has eight LMMs in sealed containers, plus some sensors. The launcher can be mounted on small warships, shore installations, or oil rigs.

 

 

 


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