EO-Guided Spike Missile

EO-Guided Spike Missile

The miniature electro-optically guided, ‘fire and forget’ SPIKE missile was developed by the US Navy Weapons Division of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) with assistance of DRS Technologies. Originally designed as a man-portable weapon for the Marines and the Navy’s special operations force, Spike fills a critical niche for a low-cost, lightweight guided weapon for U.S. ground forces.

A modular, low-cost, high precision missile capable of engaging ‘asymmetric aggressors’ in complex terrain, at ranges exceeding 2 miles, with high precision, and minimal risk of collateral damage. The missile was designed as very low cost weapon, with unit cost goal of US$5,000. The Spike weighs about five pounds (2.26 kg), and is 25 in. (63.5 cm) long. It uses fire and forget guidance using a general purpose strap-down electro-optical seeker. It was designed as a shoulder fired tactical missile or a UGV, UAV boat or ship launched weapon. The warhead weighing about 1 pound (450 gr.) is located at the center and employs Explosively Formed Projectile effect to drive a focused yet lethal effect. NAWCWD plans to test the Spike missile with a new lightweight weapons management system (WMS) developed for small UAVs.

The missile uses EO / Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker to engage laser designated targets from a distance of two miles. It’s potential applications go beyond ground combat; it is a realistic armament choice for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and a force-protection weapon to defend surface ships from small-boat swarms or light aircraft.

The missile performed its first controlled flights in 2005. SPIKE will offer safer, more accurate alternative to rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). The compact system is tailored for man-portable operations. Three missiles and a launcher could fit in a standard military backpack. Due to its light weight, Spike is considered to arm unmanned systems. According to John Baylouny, vice president of DRS Technologies, Spike missile could be used on almost any UAV and that “future spirals” in the program are expected to involve putting Spike on unmanned aircraft. Spike has already been tested with the DRS Sentry HP drone at Eglin AFB, Florida, as part of US Air Force UAV Battlelab evaluation.


Switchblade – Miniature Loitering Weapon

Switchblade – Miniature Loitering Weapon

US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are beginning initial deployment of the Switchblade  unmanned aircraft system. A product of AeroVironment, the aircraft is light enough to be man-packable, simple enough to be deployed in minutes and can fly off over the horizon sending back video. It can loiter and watch silently (it’s electric) and is so small that it is very difficult to detect at night, even at close range.

It has one more feature – it carries a warhead, so if a target of opportunity presents itself, the Switchblade has imaging sensors capable of identifying, tracking and guiding itself right to just that person, with minimal collateral damage.

Denoted as being “expendable” rather than “disposable”, the Switchblade is the first of a new breed of miniature kamikaze drones. As the system has very accurate tracking algorithms, the Switchblade is very good at locking onto and following targets, a capability that will no doubt be invaluable in the theaters of war in which they will be deployed. Small groups of soldiers will now have a much higher level of situational awareness plus the assistance of silent invisible birds of prey capable of striking from the darkness of night.

While the Switchblade will be the first such armed miniature UAS on the battlefield, its incredibly useful capabilities will

almost certainly see similar weapons being manufactured

Following the conclusion of DARPA’s Close Combat Lethal Recon CCLR projects the U.S. Air Force has embarked on a rapid acquisition program for a Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS), offering the warfighter portable, non-line-of-sight precision strike capability against individual targets, ensuring high precision effect with a very low risk of collateral damage.

The program is run by the Rapid Acquisition Cell (RAC), the Air Force’s unit handling rapid acquisition and deployment of systems responding to urgent operational requirements. LMAMS will meet a requirement identified by the Special Operations Command, for a weapon system designed for small tactical units, capable of accurately engaging targets beyond the range of current organic direct fire weapons (ALGL, M2, M3 Carl-Gustaf, and AT-4). According to Air Force documents, LMAMS will increase lethality by quickly locating, tracking, and engaging time sensitive, fleeting targets, or enemy in defilade without exposure to threat precision small arms fire. ‘Absence of visual or acoustic launch signature is essential to maintain covert operation’ the document emphasized.

Both tube-launch or hand-tossed versions will be tested. These expendable, electro-optically guided weapons will be fitted with a small warhead. The miniature killer drone will be able to loiter quietly over the target for limited time, waiting for optimal conditions to attack, while maintaining constant communications with the operator, transferring live video of the target below. Once attack permission is granted by the user, the drone’s mission-control becomes a guidance system, employing automatic-target tracking to lock on target, descending through a fast, controlled diving guiding itself to hit the target with the highest precision.

Viper Strike

Viper Strike is a gliding munition capable of stand-off
precision attack using GPS-aided navigation and a semi-active laser seeker. It is intended for operations that require a flexible angle of inclination (steep or shallow), particularly in mountainous terrain or built-up areas where strict rules of engagement are in force. Its small size and precision provide for low collateral damage in cluttered urban environments.

The weapon was developed as a derivative of the autonomous Brilliant Attack Munitions (BAT) Submunitions during a quick reaction, nine-week program at Northrop Grumman’s Land Combat Systems facility at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala.

The weapon is suitable for operations that require top-down attack, particularly in built-up areas where strict rules of engagement are in force. It requires a “man in the loop” to lase the target, either from the ground in sight of the target or from directly by the UAV, controlled from the ground station, a process which ensures the greatest possible accuracy and minimizes the chances of collateral damage.

The Viper Strike’s warhead is smaller than the hellfire’s, which is used with the US Air Force armed Predator UAVs, containing only four pounds of Anti-Tank High Explosive (HEAT) charge, for reduced collateral damage in an urban built-up area. It also has a self-destruct mechanism, to eliminate post-strike hazards. The final version of Viper Strike could be equipped with fragmentation belt as well as an optional blast fragmentation and thermobaric warhead.

By late 2004 the US Army deployed to Iraq some Viper Strike munitions with MQ-5 Hunter unit. There were no details about combat engagements of these weapons. In 2005 Northrop Grumman continued development of the weapon, and is preparing to test it with MQ-1 armed Predator and AC-130 gunships, which will use the weapon as a stand-off precision  guided munition (SOPGM). Ac-130 integration with Viper Strike is currently developed under a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for an advanced technology demonstration (ACTD). The first phase of the program is scheduled for completion by December 2006. The weapon is being updated with additional GPS guidance system and fragmentation belt, placed around the shaped charge warhead. 

Small Air Bomb Extended Range (SABER)

Small Air Bomb Extended Range (SABER) from MBDA provides multipleis guidance methods enabling autonomous or semi-autonomous attacK

Two new versions of the Predator – the U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray eagle and the Air Forces’ MO-9Reaper , both from General Atomics, are changing the way the U.S. military addresses drone warfare. Both aircraft are designed from baseline for armed missions and capable in carrying more than the Predator’s two weapons. They can also carry multiple sensors, enabling the weapon’s operation to take place in parallel to other tasks.
The Reaper is configured as a true multi-mission aircraft. In addition to a load of multiple Hellfire missiles, the Reaper can also carry three types of ‘free fall’ guided weapons – homing in on their target at high precision by laser guidance Global Positioning Satellite (GPS).  These include the Joint Direct attack Munition(JDAM) used by the larger drones, or the Small Diameter Bomb(SDB) 

.Even smaller weapons can be employed by the Predator and Gray Eagle, including the Viper Strike from Northrop Grumman or

Small Air Bomb Extended Range (SABER) from MBDA. Both employ GPS-assisted laser-homing capability, turning it into a ‘glide weapon’, thus eliminating the signature of the weapon being launched. SABER can also be configured with rocket propulsion to cover even longer ranges. Both weapons employ dual-mode warhead, using blast-fragmentation or anti-armor shaped charge, for reduced risk in collateral damage. The GPS/INS segment is used for mid-course navigation, enabling the weapon to perform ‘off-axis’ turns, regardless to the direction it is launched at. When active laser designation is available, by remote element or the platform’s EO payload, semi-active laser seeking can also be used for the terminal phase, further increasing attack precision and effect. An alternative seeker employing TV/IR sensor with data-link communications enabling ‘man in the loop’ control is currently under development.

The Gray Eagle can carry four Hellfire missiles optimized with minimal rocket signature and a wider launch envelope. The typical range of such weapons and their all-aspect attack mode make them particularly suitable for use on UAVs, eliminating the need to preposition the UAV in a straight line with the target for launching.

The new version of the Hellfire designated AGM-114R was developed by Lockheed Martin to meet specific requirements for unmanned operations. The new missile incorporates a ‘multi-purpose’ warhead, enabling a single missile to engage target sets, currently covered by four different types of laser-guided Hellfire variants. Utilizing an integral inertial measurement unit, the AGM-114R can be launched at high aspect ratio, considerably shortening the firing preparation process. Other modifications have dealt with the weapon’s obsolescence, by replacing hardware circuits with software controlled functions, thus reducing the missile’s weight and improving its reliability.

While laser guidance provides weapons with precision and lethality, it also has inherent limitations, being susceptible to interference, countermeasures or error under certain operational conditions. Furthermore, target designation by laser is far from being a trivial task. The process requires considerable and continues coordination, with the entire process constantly prone to human and technical error.

The use of a dual-mode seeker, combining electro-optical (EO) and laser/GPS can overcome such limitations, at a price. In the US, two teams are competing for the future production of such missiles, known as  Joint Direct attack Munition(JDAM) which are already in development, but these are expected to be fielded primarily with manned platforms – Apache helicopters, and Super Hornets.

For the smaller weapons electro-optical (EO) guidance has sofar been considered a costly option reserved only for special missions. But state-of-the-art commercial off the shelf technology opens new capabilities for EO seekers. Dual-mode guidance utilizing imaging sensor as laser seekers has the potential to revolutionize laser guidance, by introducing low cost, light-weight yet highly accurate means for target acquisition and weapon guidance. Current laser designators employ pulse lasers to generate high-power laser beams.

A new type of laser designator is employing low-power laser diodes to generate Continuous Wave (CW) beams, operating at relatively low power levels and available for much lower cost.


MQ-1C Gray Eagle Predator

MQ-1L Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

  A new version of the General Atomics    Predator/Reaper UAV series with multiple sensor control is ready for deployment to Afghanistan after successful trials. A U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle was fitted with two additional EO/IR sensors under each wing. These were controlled by operators in the field, who were independent of the main                                        ground  control  station (GCS).

While the primary Raytheon AN/AAS-53 common sensor payload (CSP) under the nose was operated via a Ku-Band tactical common datalink from AAI’s Universal GCS, two similar Raytheon DAS-2 sensors under the wings were operated by soldiers using a bidirectional one system remote video terminal (OSRVT) and Aerovironment’s  mini-universal GCS designed for use with Raven and Puma small UAS. Like the U.S. Air Force Reaper, the Gray Eagle additionally carries General Atomics’ own Lynx multi-mode surveillance radar.

additional sensors are carried on the inner wing hardpoints, leaving the outer wing hardpoints free for Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs or other weapons. Carriage of the additional sensors requires no modification to the UAV’s power generation system.

The U.S. Army first deployed four Gray Eagle UAVs to Iraq in December 2009. Four additional aircraft were sent to Afghanistan in September 2010. An earlier version named Sky Warrior was deployed to Iraq in 2006, and is also now in Afghanistan. These UAVs were all acquired using quick reaction capability (QRC) contracts. The main Gray Eagle contract provides for 34 more aircraft and 16 GCS, for delivery beginning in December.

Gray eagle  has an endurance of over 30 hours, speeds greater than 135 KTAS, can operate up to 29,000 feet, and carries 1,075 lb (488 kg) of payload. The aircraft can carry multiple payloads aloft, including Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) with laser designation, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), communications relay, and four Hellfire missiles.

Compared to the predator predecessor, GrayEagle’s  Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) supports the Army’s “single fuel in the battlefield” concept, and provides increased horsepower and significantly improved fuel efficiency, utilizing either jet or diesel fuel.

An extremely reliable UAS, Gray Eagle features a fault-tolerant control system and a triple-redundant avionics system architecture, similar to the systems integrated in the battle-proven Predator B Designed with airworthiness as a primary consideration, Gray Eagle is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.

This long-range, long-dwell UAS is dedicated to direct operational control by Army field commanders. Its expansive mission set includes, but is not limited, to wide-area Intelligence Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), convoy protection, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and defeat, close air support, communications relay, and weapons delivery missions.


  • Max Altitude 29,000 ft
  • Max Endurance 30+ hr
  • Max Airspeed 135 KTAS


  • Technologically advanced derivative of the combat-proven PredatorB UAS
  • Dedicated to direct operational control by U.S. Army field commanders
  • Unprecedented reliability
  • Triple-redundant avionics and flight controls
  • Redundant flight control surfaces
  • Common Data Link (CDL) line-of-sight communications/air data relay communications
  • Satellite communications
  • Open, modular architecture supports integration of three payloads simultaneously, with capacity for growth
  • Automatic takeoff and landing reduces pilot workload

De-icing system

HFE offsets the logistical need for special fuels on the battlefield

Controlled by the U.S. Army One System Ground Control Station (OSGCS)

C-130 transportable

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Initially conceived in the early 1990s for reconnaissance and forward observation roles, the Predator carries cameras and other sensors but has been modified and upgraded to carry and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or other munitions. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.

The USAF describes the Predator as a “Tier II” MALE UAS (medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system). The UAS consists of four aircraft or “air vehicles” with sensors, a ground control station (GCS), and a primary satellite link communication suite. Powered by a Rotax engine and driven by a propeller, the air vehicle can fly up to 400 nautical miles (740 km) to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.
Following 2001, the RQ-1 Predator drone became the primary UAV used for offensive operations by the USAF and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas. It has also been deployed in other locations. Because offensive uses of the Predator are classified, U.S. military officials have reported an appreciation for the intelligence and reconnaissance-gathering abilities of UAVs but declined to publicly discuss their offensive use.
Civilian applications have included border enforcement and scientific studies.
A Predator flies on a simulated Navy aerial reconnaissance flight off the coast of southern California on Dec. 5, 1995.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon began experimenting with reconnaissance drones in the early 1980s. The CIA preferred small, lightweight, unobtrusive drones, in contrast to the USAF. In the early 1990s, the CIA became interested in the “Amber”, a drone developed by Leading Systems Inc. The company’s owner, Abraham Karem was the former chief designer for the Israeli Air Force, and had immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s. Karem’s company had since gone bankrupt and been bought up by a U.S. defense contractor. The CIA secretly bought five drones (now called the “Gnat”) from them. Karem agreed to produce a quiet engine for the vehicle, which had until then sounded like “a lawnmower in the sky”. The new development became known as the “Predator”.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA) was awarded a contract to develop the Predator in January 1994, and the initial Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) phase lasted from January 1994 to June 1996. The aircraft itself was a derivative of the GA Gnat 750 UAV. During the ACTD phase, three systems were purchased from GA, comprising twelve aircraft and three ground control stations.
From April through May, 1995, the Predator ACTD aircraft were flown as a part of the Roving Sands 1995 exercises in the U.S. The exercise operations were successful, and this led to the decision to deploy the system to the Balkans later in the summer of 1995.[9]

During the ACTD, Predators were operated by a combined Army/Navy team managed by the Navy’s Joint Program Office for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (JPO-UAV) and first deployed to Gjader, Albania, for operations in the Former Yugoslavia in Spring 1995.
By the start of the United States Afghan campaign in 2001, the USAF had acquired 60 Predators, and said it had lost 20 of them in action.[citation needed] Few if any of the losses were from enemy action, the worst problem apparently being foul weather, particularly icy conditions. Some critics within the Pentagon saw the high loss rate as a sign of poor operational procedures. In response to the losses caused by cold weather flight conditions, a few of the later Predators obtained by the USAF were fitted with de-icing systems, along with an uprated turbocharged engine and improved avionics. This improved “Block 1” version was referred to as the “RQ-1B”, or the “MQ-1B” if it carried munitions; the corresponding air vehicle designation was “RQ-1L” or “MQ-1L”
The Predator system was initially designated the RQ-1 Predator. The “R” is the United States Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and the “Q” refers to an unmanned aircraft system.[10] The “1” describes it as being the first of a series of aircraft systems built for unmanned reconnaissance. Pre-production systems were designated as RQ-1A, while the RQ-1B (not to be confused with the RQ-1 Predator B, which became the MQ-9 Reaper) denotes the baseline production configuration. These are designations of the system as a unit. The actual aircraft themselves were designated RQ-1K for pre-production models, and RQ-1L for production models.[11] In 2002, the USAF officially changed the designation to MQ-1 (“M” for multi-role) to reflect its growing use as an armed aircraft.
Command and sensor systems
During the campaign in the former Yugoslavia, a Predator’s pilot would sit with several payload specialists in a van near the runway of the drone’s operating base. Direct radio signals controlled the drone’s takeoff and initial ascent. Then communications shifted to military satellite networks linked to the pilot’s van. Pilots experienced a delay of several seconds between tugging their joysticks and the drone’s response. But by 2000 improvements in communications systems (perhaps by use of the USAF’s JSTARS system) made it possible, at least in theory, to fly the drone remotely from great distances. It was no longer necessary to use close-up radio signals during the Predator’s takeoff and ascent. The entire flight could be controlled by satellite from any command center with the right equipment. The CIA proposed to attempt over Afghanistan the first fully remote Predator flight operations, piloted from the agency’s headquarters at Langley.
The Predator air vehicle and sensors are controlled from the ground station via a C-band line-of-sight data link or a Ku-band satellite data link for beyond-line-of-sight operations. During flight operations the crew in the ground control station is a pilot and two sensor operators. The aircraft is equipped with the AN/AAS-52 Multi-spectral Targeting System, a color nose camera (generally used by the pilot for flight control), a variable aperture day-TV camera, and a variable aperture infrared camera (for low light/night). Previously, Predators were equipped with a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze, but lack of use validated its removal to reduce weight and conserve fuel. The cameras produce full motion video and the synthetic aperture radar produced still frame radar images. There is sufficient bandwidth on the datalink for two video sources to be used at one time, but only one video source from the sensor ball can be used at any time due to design limitations. Either the daylight variable aperture or the infrared electro-optical sensor may be operated simultaneously with the synthetic aperture radar, if equipped.
All later Predators are equipped with a laser designator that allows the pilot to identify targets for other aircraft and even provide the laser-guidance for manned aircraft. This laser is also the designator for the AGM-114 Hellfire that are carried on the MQ-1. Continue reading

Stealth Fighter

Hitler’s Stealth Fighter” Re-created

Top stealth-plane experts have re-created a radical, nearly forgotten Nazi aircraft: the Horten 2-29, a retro-futuristic fighter that arrived too late in World War II to make it into mass production.

the plane was designed for speeds of up to 600 miles an hour (970 kilometers an hour).

Armed with four 30mm cannons and two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs, the planned production model was also meant to pack a punch.

A Ho 2-29 prototype made a successful test flight just before Christmas 1944. But by then time was running out for the Nazis, and they were never able to perfect the design or produce more than a handful of prototype planes.

Determining the Horten’s stealth capabilities could help reveal what might have happened if the Ho 2-29 had been unleashed in force.

  The Horten brothers, as they are known, wanted to build an aircraft that could fly with the “elegant efficiency of birds”. They developed the 2-29 (also known as the HO IX), a tailless “wing flyer” that revolutionarily incorporated the engines within the fuselage, rather than have them protrude below wings.

With the engines buried in the fuselage, exterior surfaces blended together, and plane constructed almost entirely out of wood

the Horten brothers were developing a stealth fighter to subvert British radar,

The team finally takes the model to Northrop’s radar cross-section test range in Tejon, California. Propped up on a five-story tall pole, the model is rotated while exposed to the same type of radar used by Britain during World War II.

The results (spoiler alert!) are scary. From the time most Luftwaffe planes appeared on British radar they could reach their target in 19 minutes. The 2-29, aided by its speed and stealth, could reach its target in only 8 minutes. “It would have been a game changer,” one Northrop engineer says. The 2-29 would have permitted just 2.5 minutes to respond.

While the documentary’s conclusion that the 2-29 pre-dated modern stealth capabilities by three decades is fascinating, equally so is the insight to so-called black programs and the people who work on them. “After 28 years working in the dark, it’s nice to spend one day in the light,” one engineer says of his time working on the 2-29 model. At the classified radar base, a man who tows the 2-29 model out of its hangar says without the slightest bit of laughter, “I’ve moved a lot of stuff, but I’ve never moved a German stealth fighter.”

F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter

F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter

 The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology.

The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the F-117A.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, F-117A’s flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest Asia more than once. On their first trip, the F-117s flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours — a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.

Returning to the skies over Baghdad, F-117A’s launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with a decapitation strike on March 20, 2003. Striking key targets in the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, 12 deployed F-117s flew more than 100 combat sorties in support of the global war on terrorism.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Fighter/attack

Contractor: Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.

Power Plant: Two General Electric F404 non-afterburning engines

Thrust: 18,080 pounds at sea level

Wingspan: 43 feet, 4 inches (13.2 meters)

Length: 63 feet, 9 inches (19.4 meters)

Height: 12 feet, 9.5 inches (3.9 meters)

Weight: 52,500 pounds (23,625 kilograms)

Maximum takeoff weight: 47,900 pounds (21,727 kilograms)

Fuel capacity: 19,000 pounds (8618 kilograms)

Payload: 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms)

Speed: High subsonic

Range: Unlimited with air refueling

Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,716 meters)

Armament: Internal weapons carriage

Crew: One

Unit Cost: $45 million

Initial operating capability: October 1983

Inventory: Total force, 45

Source: USAF Continue reading