Weapons: Pike 1.0

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July 19, 2019: Back in 2012 two American defense firms (Nammo Talley and Raytheon) cooperated to develop a laser-guided 40mm grenade. Three years later they got the concept working in the form of the Pike 40mm laser-guided grenade. The original unguided 40mm grenade was about 100mm (4 inches) long and weighed about 545 gr (19 ounces). This grenade cartridge contained a 40mm projectile that was about 43mm (1.9 inches) long, weighed about 250 gr (nine ounces) and could be fired out to about 400 meters. An experienced grenadier could only fire these grenades accurately at targets as far as 200 meters distant.

The Pike was a 40mm grenade but it was much larger and heavier. Pike was 430mm (16.8 inches) long and weighs 770 gr (25.6 ounces). While the Pike warhead is about twice as powerful as the unguided 40mm grenade, most of the addition bulk and weight of the Pike is taken up by the laser detector in the nose, a microcomputer, four pop-out fins and electronic and mechanical components to operate the fins to guide the Pike to a target up to 2,000 meters away. The Pike homes in on laser light reflected from the target, which is “painted” by a laser designator that looks like a pistol. Normally Pike is operated by a two-man team. One man is the grenadier, firing the Pike from a common one round 40mm grenade launcher. The second man, the spotter, points the laser designator and holds it on the target until the Pike reaches it (after about 20 seconds). Actually, one person could operate the Pike because at max range Pike will be in flight for about 15 seconds before it can detect the laser light reflected off the target by the handheld laser designator. So one person could fire the Pike then pick up the laser designator, turn it on and designate the target.

Pike will land within five meters of the laser light reflected off the target. The warhead is twice as powerful as a hand grenade so Pike will kill or injure anyone within ten meters (32 feet) of the aim point. Pike obtains its long-range by using a small explosive charge to propel Pike about three meters into the air before a smokeless rocket motor takes over giving it the momentum needed to carry it at least 2,000 meters.

As of 2019, only one customer has been found for Pike. The Canadian Army bought some for its special operations troops. The major problem with Pike is the cost of each round. The standard 40mm grenade fired by infantry costs about $30 each. The Pike manufacturer (Raytheon) has not made public the cost of each round but given the cost of other small laser-guided missiles (like the 70mm APKWS) each Pike probably costs at least $3,000 and probably two or three times that. It could be useful for special operations troops but for most infantry, there are plenty of other guided munitions available, many of them cheaper and more destructive than Pike.

Yet some guided munitions take years to find enough users to become regularly used weapons. Two examples are the 70mm APKWS missile and the guided 155mm artillery shell. The first attempt at a guided artillery shell resulted in a very expensive laser-guided “Copperhead” shell. This shell was developed in the 1970s but not used until 1990 (the war to get Iraq out of Kuwait). Twenty-five years later a much cheaper and effective GPS guided 155mm shell came along and within five years GPS guided shells got even cheaper. These were used in large quantities in Afghanistan and against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria. It took APKWS over a decade to find enough users to make it work continuing production and development.

In other words, Pike is version 1.0 and it may not be until version 2.0 (or 3.0) come along in a decade (or more) as a better and much cheaper 40mm laser-guided grenade.

 


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