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Hezbollah’s Growing Ballistic Missile Stockpile Turns From Terror Threat to Military Threat

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

While there has been much discussion in recent weeks over whether or not Hezbollah actually received Scud short range ballistic missiles from Syria, its Hezbollah’s growing stocks of Syrian made M-600 battlefield short range missiles that may prove more threatening.

The M-600 is an improvement on the Iranian Fatah-110 missile, carrying a thousand pound warhead to ranges in excess of 300 kilometers. What makes these missiles a military, versus terror, threat is that they are fitted with GPS-aided inertial navigation. While the Scud is liquid fueled, which means it’s vulnerable to air strikes while fueling before launch, the M-600 is solid fuel and can be fired without preparation.

Most of the rockets Hezbollah rained down on Israel in the 2006 war were unguided; good for spreading terror, not so good at taking out point targets. A precise short-range ballistic missile would enable Hezbollah to target Israeli military installations, air bases and troop concentrations. Reports of Fatah-110 deliveries to Hezbollah first appeared in the Israeli press in 2007.

“With that threat in mind, the Israeli air force recently concluded a decade-long effort of redeploying most of its assets in southern bases, positioning them as far as possible from the Lebanese border for maximum protection. Fighter squadrons, which remain in northern and central Israel, are constantly training in emergency deployment to southern bases, should their home bases come under missile and rocket attacks.”

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s David Schenker says the much debated Scud deliveries to Hezbollah are “a tempest in a teapot.” He points out the logistical headaches of establishing the infrastructure for “the nearly 40 feet tall weapon and its challenging liquid fuel rocket.” The M-600, of which Hezbollah is reported to have around 200, is a much more dangerous weapon, he contends, with its 300 kilometer range, quoting a Hezbollah statement: “is the distance required for precise strikes in all the land of occupied Palestine”

– Greg Grant

Iran Still a Decade Away from Building an ICBM Able to Reach New York, D.C.: IISS

Monday, May 10th, 2010

London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies has released a new “dossier”: “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A net assessment,” produced by “an international team of experts.”

IISS says that while Iran’s missile program has made impressive progress in recent years, it remains heavily dependent on foreign support and supply of key materials, equipment and components. Certain key technologies it can’t build: “There exists no evidence to date to suggest that Iran can, on its own, develop or produce the individual components of a strap-down navigation and guidance system for ballistic missiles.”

Tehran is still four or five years away from rigging some combination of liquid or solid fuel engines to build a longer range missile capable of ranging Western Europe, according to a IISS press release. As for a notional ICBM that could reach 9,000 kilometers and hit America’s east coast, Iran is still a decade away.


Killer Drone Builder General Atomics Builds Killer Electromagnetic Rail Cannon

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

One of the more intriguing new technologies spotted at this week’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo was General Atomics’ electromagnetic rail cannon. The company has been working for a number of years with the Office of Naval Research on a 200 nautical mile gun system. In a parallel effort, they’ve been developing a smaller, pulse-power technology demonstrator, called the “Blitzer,” for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms.

Two million amps launch a guided projectile at twice the speed of a conventional gun, but at much lower cost than the usual surface-to-air missile systems outfitting most naval ships. General Atomics is working on a cannon that can launch an airburst round at a rate of one per second. Each round dispenses sub-projectiles, so its equivalent to firing 14,000 rounds a minute, which is a higher rate of fire than the Phalanx close-in weapons system, says Tom Hurn, General Atomics director of advanced weapons systems.

– Greg Grant

Navy Says NLOS-LS Cancellation Won’t Delay LCS

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

The Army is looking to cancel its costly and poorly performing “missiles in a box,” the Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS). As we’ve noted, NLOS-LS was also intended to outfit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), providing the vessel much needed long range, precision guided fires.

We asked the Navy if the Army’s cancellation of the NLOS-LS would have any impact on the LCS being declared combat capable, as the vessel needs some kind of long range fires to fulfill its surface warfare mission. Today, a Navy spokesman emailed over the following statement:

“The Navy is assessing options to fulfill the NLOS role in the surface warfare mission package. An inherent advantage of the modular designs for LCS and its mission packages is that a delay in one part of the overall program does not impact our ability to move forward in other areas and deliver combat capable assets to the fleet.”

– Greg Grant

Osama Killer Missile Fails; No Conventional Tridents

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

By Colin Clark
Defense Tech Chief Pentagon Correspondent

Cruise missiles are highly accurate but they have to be fired from a distance and they take a fair amount of time to get where they are going. So they are great for fixed targets, but their limitations have left the Pentagon scratching its head for half a decade trying to find something that can be launched and hit its target anywhere in the world within an hour or so.

One of the key drivers behind this effort has been to develop a weapon that could kill a terrorist like Osama bin Laden anywhere in the world without having to send in special operators or deploy a big ship. The concept, pushed hard by vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Hoss Cartwright, is called Prompt Global Strike and the budget contains $240 million for development programs.

But one of the more promising efforts, DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), made it part way through a test and then vanished. A review board has been formed to find out just what went wrong. No word yet on when their findings might be available.

DARPA said the launch vehicle, known as the Minotaur Lite, got the HTV-2 up. “The launch vehicle executed first of its kind energy management maneuvers, clamshell payload fairing release and HTV-2 deployment. Approximately nine minutes into the mission, telemetry assets experienced a loss of signal from the HTV-2. An engineering team is reviewing available data to understand this event.”


Containerized Cruise Missile Featured in Slick Marketing Video (Updated)

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Updated: Rats, looks like the Russian firm deleted the video from YouTube. Hopefully it will resurface at some point. Here’s a screen capture of the vid. And it reappears. (Thanks GF!)

Continuing with the anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) theme, this marketing video has been making the rounds. It comes from Kontsern-Morinformsistema-Agat, a Russian company that claims to be building a new cruise missile system, the Club-K, that can be hidden inside a standard 40-foot shipping container.

According to this Reuters news story, the missiles at least are the real deal, coming from Russian builder Novator. The article contains some breathless quotes from a writer for Jane’s Defense Weekly; including the claim that the shipping container missile is a “carrier killer.” This is getting to be like the tech world where every new mobile gadget is labeled a potential “iPhone killer.”

They’ve definitely put together an impressive looking marketing vid (that bizarrely starts off with the theme from “Born Free” and finishes up with “Gladiator”) showing the containerized missiles innocuously moved about on a semi, a railcar and a merchant vessel, only to unleash its payload on an unsuspecting enemy. Oddly, the targeted enemy appears to be outfitted with American tanks, helicopters and aircraft, minus any identifying markings of course.

– Greg

Army Cancels NLOS-LS Missile System; LCS Implications Could Be Big

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The Army has finally canceled the problem plagued Non Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), one of the leftovers of the many bits and pieces of the failed FCS program. As we’ve reported, the NLOS-LS failed miserably in its most recent series of tests, carried out earlier this year. This story was first reported by InsideDefense​.com.

In 2004, the Army signed a six year, $1.1 billion development contract for the NLOS-LS with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. That same year, the Navy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Army to buy the missiles for it’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

The Army’s cancellation of the program could have serious implications for the LCS program as the NLOS-LS was to substitute for the ship’s lack of vertical launch system cells — which can handle anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land attack missiles — carried on larger surface ships, if in a smaller package. The only weapon the LCS currently carries is a single 57mm rapid fire cannon that can range out to nine miles.

Analysts have pointed to the LCS’ lack of organic fires as a serious shortcoming that might limit its operational effectiveness. One of the primary missions of the LCS is to screen the battle fleet’s larger ships and fight off fast attack boat “swarms.” That’s where the NLOS-LS was supposed to come in, with a Loitering Attack Missile that could range out to 124 miles.

Update: Asked to comment on the missile’s cancellation, a spokesperson from Lockheed Martin’s LCS office said: “By design, LCS is a flexible, reconfigurable ship, able to accept other weapons the Navy might want to integrate.”

– Greg

Details Emerge On Army’s Failed NLOS-LS Missile

Friday, April 16th, 2010

In testimony before lawmakers yesterday, David Duma, OSD’s Principal Deputy Director for Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E), detailed failings of the Army’s Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS).

During the most recent tests carried out in February, new navigation software caused six of seven total system aborts. Overall missile reliability is just 61 percent, well below the 85 percent requirement. The missile’s problems appear to be with its infrared seeker; missiles using the IR seeker hit only 5 out of 11 times during tests last year and again this year.

During limited user tests in February, the first operational flight test of the NLOS-LS, only two of the Precision Attack Munition missiles fired hit their targets; two missiles impacted more than 14 kilometers from the target.

The Army has identified some of the problems, including data misinterpretation by the missile’s onboard computer, motor problems and a circuit board failure. OSD recommended that the Army conduct more flight tests once the problems have been corrected.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, Deputy Chief of Staff Army G-8, said needed fixes are being made and asked lawmakers for patience and to await further tests.

– Greg

NLOS-LS Missile Fail Could Impact Navy’s LCS

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

The failure of the Army’s Non Line-of-Sight-Launch System (NLOS-LS) Precision Attack Missile (PAM) to hit its intended targets in a recent series of live fire tests might not just be an Army problem. See, the NLOS-PAM system, also called “missiles-in-a-box,” is also supposed to outfit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), giving the ships a much needed long-range strike weapon.

The NLOS-LS was to substitute for the LCS’ lack of vertical launch system cells — which can handle anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land attack missiles — carried on larger surface ships, if in a smaller package. The only weapon the LCS currently carries is a single 57mm rapid fire cannon that can range out to nine miles.

The missiles-in-a-box for LCS were to come in two versions, the PAM, with a range of around 40 miles, and a Loitering Attack Missile, that when fully developed was to have nearly a 124 mile range. The missiles would give the LCS some of the much needed firepower it currently lacks, and when coupled with ship launched aerial drones, an over the horizon strike capability.

In a mostly favorable white paper on the LCS, Martin Murphy, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, pointed to the LCS’ lack of organic fires as a serious shortcoming. If the missiles don’t come on line anytime soon, the LCS’ operational effectiveness could be negatively impacted.

As we reported last month, during live fire tests in late January and early February, the NLOS-PAM missed its target four out of six times. Senior Army leaders are pretty fed up with the costly missile system (each missile costs roughly $466,000), according to Army sources, and are considering cheaper solutions.

If the Army decides to pass on NLOS-LS, where does that leave the Navy and LCS? Can the LCS hull accommodate the larger VLS cells and what would the ship have to give up to fit them?

– Greg

Army React To NLOS-LS Missile Miss

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

On a conference call earlier this week with Army Maj. Gen. Keith Walker, the service’s Future Force Integration Directorate Commander, I asked him about the crappy performance of the Non Line-of-Sight Launch System’s (NLOS-LS) Precision Attack Missile. The not very precise missile only went two for six in recent limited user live fire tests out at White Sands; the hits only came when it used its laser designator instead of the infrared seeker, which is kind of cheating (laser designated rounds have been around for a long time).

Walker, who is in charge of getting all of the former bits and pieces of technology that fell out of the FCS cancellation integrated into the future force, was none too pleased about the NLOS-LS tests; he was there to witness the misses first hand. “It’s a significant impact, obviously,” he said.

I asked Walker how much patience the Army has with Raytheon’s missile builders. “It depends on what went wrong, if it’s a matter of the switch was set to A instead of B, then that’s just turning the switch. It’s likely at this point in the evaluation that it’s a bit more complicated than that.”

The Army lacks an “easily deployable guided missile system,” he said, but, there is a cost versus benefit issue with the NLOS-LS; the missiles reportedly cost $466,000 a piece. Once the guidance malfunction is identified, then “we can figure out what it would take to fix it. Then the Army’s got the decision: Okay, do we modify the program? Do we cancel the program? Or do we continue?”

The Army is having a tough time even figuring out how the NLOS-LS would fit into its precision fires world because it has yet to perform as advertised, he said.