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The kinetic effect making an impact on the front line

Time for a change


Does the 5.56mm SA80 individual weapon round lack sufficient punch?

Keeping faith with the Warrior


The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) forges ahead

Bunker busters
Is the West able to neutralise high-value targets buried deep beneath the surface?

Defence Acquisition

MV(a?): Kinetic Warfare Brings Us Back to the Future


Kinetic weaponry will remain a key component of land, sea and air arsenals for the foreseeable future, but will struggle to attract R&D investment. Dr Jeffrey Bradford explains why

t seems almost unfashionable to discuss kinetic warfare when political interest, defence industrial capabilities and budgets are being realigned towards the latest priorities, such as cyber-warfare kinetic warfare being principally concerned with weapons that deliver mass (M) at velocity (V) for effect. In the 21st century, one could suggest that, in addition to MV, a (accuracy) also plays a fundamental part. However, kinetic warfare while not as exciting, perhaps, as the latest perceived threats has an important place in the defence arsenal. To paraphrase Lenin, maybe Mass times Velocity has a quality all of its own. Mass multiplied by velocity is as relevant now as a capability, when looking at concepts emanating from Asia to neutralise US naval carrier battle group superiority or an underground WMD production facility, as it was in ancient times with the catapult1. The idea of propelling an object at speed as a weapon is evolving across the spectrum of military requirements. This article will seek to review and consider the potential of developments in the land, sea and air environments and their implications for the future. On land Among the most intriguing developments are those surrounding guided small-arms munitions. Current testing with ammunition for sniper rifles offers a leap in accuracy and safety for situations involving large numbers of civilians and other non-combatants. Extrapolating the results of these early tests will make infantry increasingly lethal on the battlefield, and the smart small-arms rounds make for a substantial force multiplier. More generally, in the period since the Second World War, the conventional wisdom was that small-arms engagements would occur at ranges of up to 300 metres. Operational experience in recent times, however,

indicates that 300- to 900-metre engagements are more commonplace2. This has caused problems for the infantry carrying 5.56mm-chambered weapons, causing the armed forces to either reintroduce heavier-calibre 7.62mm weapons or to experiment with a range of measures such as the US Marine Corps SOST 5.56mm round all of which, no doubt, placing significant complexity on the logistics supply chain3. In terms of vehicle-mounted weapon systems, the flirtation with main battle-tank guns above 120mm in diameter seems to have tailed off with the end of the Cold War confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. Heavy armour, the perceived arbiter in land warfare on the northern plains of western Europe, though still crucial, was arguably pushed into second place by the development of the helicopter gunship, which combines lethality with high mobility. At present, one could make the case that land-combat systems development has suffered from the diversion of resources into countering the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) encountered on the battlefields of both Iraq and Afghanistan. This has been at the expense of programmes such as the US Armys Future Combat System (FCS) and the UKs Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)4. At sea In the naval environment, developments to radically employ kinetic effect are challenging strategic thinking. The mock video released in the Chinese media showing a ballistic rocket being used to physically destroy a US Navy aircraft carrier triggered a wave of discussion and, alongside more conventional developments, is solidifying thinking as to Chinese strategic intent to deny access to the littorals5.

British Challenger II main battle tanks on exercise in Oman

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RUSI DEFENCE SYSTEMS SUMMER 2012

Defence Acquisition

The AGM-114 Hellfire missile is the weapon of choice for the Predator/Reaper UAV

Meanwhile, the US Navy is testing onshore an electromagnetic gun that, although requiring substantial power, is capable of firing a projectile some 110 nautical miles, potentially at velocities of five times the speed of sound6. Clearly, when perfected, the small size of ammunition required would give this weapon a prodigious capability and herald, perhaps, a mid-21st-century dreadnought to the worlds oceans. In the air For aviation, probably the most critical area of development is in small, high-powered kinetic weapons that can be mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at one end of the operational spectrum. At the other extreme is the development of weapons that have deep penetration and destructive power short of a nuclear device, to be deployed in tackling underground facilities used to develop WMD programmes. For larger UAVs, such as the Predator, the Hellfire missile has been the weapon of choice. However, much smaller kinetic weapons are also being developed, such as the 13-pound Small Tactical Munition from Raytheon7 and the Boeing Small Diameter Weapon programme8. Both are clearly looking to the future, when UAVs will dominate the air. Implications for decision-makers All of these programmes could create a profoundly different operating environment for planning and executing military operations within our lifetimes. There are a few key implications that these developments can already be seen to have raised: The Ethical Dimension Development of massively powerful conventional munitions, such as the Boeing Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) device ostensibly devised for use against underground WMD facilities at one end versus micro-ordnance from an unmanned aerial vehicle, is likely to raise debate as to what is appropriate response in future warfare, especially in low-intensity operations. The Defence Industrial Base Dimension Clearly, these new kineticweapon technologies are going to be expensive to develop and to deploy. In some cases, industry players are likely to have to take on a measure of the burden in terms of research and technology as, from a political standpoint, it can be suggested that these are niceto-haves in simplistic terms. The struggles of the electromagnetic

railgun programme to continue to secure funding versus the C-17 airlift programme production line are symptomatic of this situation. The Grand Strategic level of military/political planning Perhaps the thorniest area to consider. Given declining platform numbers as a trend and the increasing expense and technological frailty of weapons development, there is likely to be massive pressure to pre-empt an opponent in a crisis or prospective conflict situation. The Operational level of military planning At this level, it could be suggested that pushing ever more powerful kinetic capabilities downward into the chain of command will place a greater decision-making burden on ever more junior ranks, given the effect at their disposal.

One is reminded of James Camerons 1980s film Aliens, in which a Marine Private has at his disposal thermonuclear weapons. Only a movie, perhaps although the video cameras and body armour that the soldiers wore in that science-fiction film hardly look out of place when watching CNN today. In summary, driven by operational experience and political need, there is a substantial level of activity aimed at strengthening kinetic effect in the land, sea and air environments. While budgets and political priorities may delay some projects, the trend towards greater kinetic warfare effects is clear.

Footnotes
1. China has carrier-killer missile, US admiral says, Washington Post, 27 December 2010, and Weapons at heart of US-Israel talks, Politico, 4 March 2012 2. The Next Generation/Biting the Bullet: The Case for a New NATO Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridge, conference presentation by Anthony G Williams, 2010 3. P Buxbaum, The Right Round, Special Operations Technology, Vol 4 No 8, June 2010 4. Dont Rush to Buy New Vehicles, Army and Marine Corps Are Warned, National Defense, 6 March 2012 5. Washington Post, op cit 6. US Navy, Navy sets new world record with electromagnetic railgun demonstration, ref NNS101210-19, 10 December 2010 7. Mini-Weapons Add Punch to Small UAVs, Defense Technology International, March 2011 8. Boeing Team Gets USAF Contract for UAV Miniature Weapon Development, Defense Industry Daily, 16 November 2009

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