Artillery: LORA Over Water

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June 20, 2020: In May 2020 Israel warned shipping away from an area in the eastern Mediterranean because of an upcoming ballistic missile test. Actually it was not a true ballistic missile test, but instead a test of a ground or sea-launched missile that performed like a ballistic missile in order to make interception extremely difficult. The test involved two LORA (Long-Range Artillery Rocket) missiles launched against different targets. One LORA was aimed at a small target zone 90 kilometers distant and another to a target area 400 kilometers away. Both LORA missiles hit their target. It was not revealed from where both missiles were launched or if one was fired from a ship.

The Israeli military is in the midst of reforming its artillery force, including air-to-ground missiles and LORA is playing a major role in that. Although LORA has been around for over a decade it was, until recently, a specialized and rather expensive weapon. There has only been one export customer; Azerbaijan, a major export market for Israeli weapons. But now the Israeli military is using more LORA to reach Iranian targets deep inside Syria.

In 2018 Israel formed a new long-range rocket unit that was initially equipped with ground-launched LORA. A consortium of Israeli defense firms developed and introduced LORA in 2007. Back then it was noted that the Israeli weapon was similar to the U.S. ATACMS. Each LORA missile weighed up to 1.8 tons depending on which types of warheads (400 to 600 kg) carried. Normally range is 300 kilometers but that can be extended to 400 kilometers with a lighter warhead. GPS guidance is standard, as is jam-proof INS backup. GPS will put the warhead within 10 meters (30 feet) of the aim point. INS will do the same but within 30 meters.

LORA was an improvement on the American ATACMS (introduced in 1986), and one version was fired from a MLRS launcher that normally carried six of the standard 227mm MLRS rockets. Both LORA and ATACMs are 610mm rockets that weigh about the same and use GPS/INS guidance system. Both are basically short-range ballistic missiles. Where LORA differed was in that it was carried, four to a sealed launcher, on a heavy truck. Moreover, LORA was designed from the beginning to be operated from ships and to use additional guidance system options. The one that was known about was a two-way video link that enabled an operator to confirm the target, abort of necessary and also adjust aim to make it a bit more accurate. Israel has other guidance system options that are not advertised, like a pattern matching system that will provide even more accuracy and is jam-proof (no GPS or radio link). In short, LORA approached its target at a faster (hypersonic) speed than ATACMS because LORA operated more like a ballistic missile. That meant LORA went higher before turning down towards the target. LORA also had a more accurate terminal guidance system.

In 2017 Israel announced a successful test of a new version of its LORA system that can be mounted and fired from standard shipping containers. The test involved a truck hauling a shipping container parked on a ship deck. The containerized LORA uses a minimum of two containers; one containing four missiles each in the standard sealed container, and the standard electric (not hydraulic) system to point the missile skyward so it will be fired without the rocket blast damaging the ship. Another container contains the control center and some maintenance and test equipment. In the original ship-launched version, the launch center electronics were installed in the ship CIC (Combat Information Center) like other fire control equipment. A ship could carry four or more containers with launchers and the container version could also be used on land with the containers mounted on any heavy truck or tractor-trailer designed to carry those containers. The new container system also makes it easier to add more firepower to existing warships or even unarmed naval support vessels. LORA also has ground (and bunker) penetrating conventional warheads for LORA. Each LORA missile is transported and fired from a sealed container that only had to be checked once every five years.

Israel is using its experience with LORA to design and build more long-range (300 kilometers or more) guided rockets to take over missions previously handled by manned aircraft. In addition to LORA, there is also the experience with loitering munitions. Israel now has a ground-launched version of its air-launched Delilah cruise missile. Delilah saw combat for the first time during the 2006 war with Hezbollah. Delilah is a 1.3 ton weapon, with a range of 250 kilometers and a 30 kg (66 pounds) warhead. It uses GPS, inertial systems and onboard vidcam for guidance. Delilah is designed to cruise around, taking and transmitting vidcam images to detect the right target, then attacking. In Lebanon, it was used to attack trucks carrying missiles. Delilah can stay in the air for up to half an hour and has been used in Syria several times during 2018 to destroy air defense systems. The ground-launched Delilah is meant for any type of target. There was always talk of a longer range Delilah and, now that there is a ground-launched version, a longer range (at least 500 kilometers) version might be a useful addition to the long-range missile artillery unit.

 


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