back to article US Navy produces smart, cheap 6kg fire+forget missile

US military boffins have added cheap "fire and forget" autonomous seeker heads to basic, lightweight dumb rockets of a type which can be fired in large numbers. By seriously reducing the size and cost of smart weapons, this development is yet another big step towards changing the way wars are fought. The project in question …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. mdava

    Ref Iain M Banks

    Knife missile, anyone?


    1. M Gale

      What is it with Culture references lately?

      See title.

    2. GSV Slightly Perturbed

      I approve of this post.

      [broadcast Mclear, sent 1305484958.0]

      xGSV Slightly Perturbed

      oBOFH Reg Readers

      I approve of this post.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bla bla bla...

    "A pilot would have to get his laser dot on the spot, launch a rocket and then hold the laser on while the rocket flew to it."

    Not really.

    If the same guidance system, but with mutliple target capability is mounted on the heli it can keep laser dots on 6-8 or as many targets as you like. It is cheaper than FnF too because it does not need to withstand the Gs associated with a rocket launch and maneuvering. You also need one system per helicopter.

    All the bla bla bla in the article has nothing to do with why you need FnF on a helicopter It cannot hang around to keep the pointer on unless it is to become Stinger/Strela bait. It has to FnF or use non-guided weapons to stay alive.

    Her comes the interesting bit. A FnF on a ground attack heli makes a LOT of sense. It has somewhere to hide and "go to ground". A navy helicopter has no such place. If the target has the means to defend itself it is dead meat. So this is all a big waste of money. As usual. Shiny new toys. Budget. Dosh. Pork.

    1. SkippyBing

      You don't need to hide

      When your missile goes further than theirs.

      Essentially the kind of vessel this would be used against (i.e. that it could destroy/immobilise) won't be equipped with anything much better than Stinger/Strela effective range ~8km, assuming you can aim it while your boat is bouncing off the waves at 30-40kts.

      This has a range of ~10km, more if it adopts a loft profile.

      Think of it like having a nut kicking contest with a dwarf, you just hold him at arms length and kick away while he flails uselessly.

      1. Mr Spoon


        In EVE (yes, the computer game) it's referred to as kiting (you stay outside their range as they try to get within theirs, like you're dragging along a kite). If you have the higher speed and the better engagement range you basically win by default. Unless you manage to fuck up and let them get within their range of course.

        Oh real war? *sad face*

        1. Slabfondler

          Everquest predates this by years...

          Kiting was (is?) a tactic developed by Everquest players many years before EVE existed. see: - it is also part of what became known as (and famously fun in certain instances) - the multiple kite or "train". Choo Choo!

          Cause trolls kite too!

          1. SkippyBing

            @Everquest predates this by years..

            To be fair I think actual warfare pre-dates Everquest by centuries, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise having the longer ranged stick = win

        2. M Gale

          MMmm computer games.

          I like the X3: Terran Conflict approach. Fit a Boron Kraken (that's, err, a rather large missile frigate) up with as many auto-targetting, re-targetting FoF heavy torps and swarming missiles as you can cram in. Jump it into a sector heavily populated with enemy fighters and capital ships and issue the command "missile barrage". When it asks you how many you give it the number "-1" which means "oh fuck it, just dump the entire freight bay into the launchers." Well over 1000 screaming streaks of death emptied in, oh, about 10 seconds?

          Watch as the entire sector explodes and your graphics card hates you forever. Missile Frigates: For when you absolutely, positively got to kill every other motherfucker within a 100km radius no matter how many countermeasures they can deploy, accept no substitute.

          (you may want two or three large-ish production complexes going to keep one of them fed, though.)

    2. Jason 24

      How about..

      The fact that they'll only need to fire one missile now to guarantee a kill, as oppose to a shed load, so that will be cheaper. Or only send one heli out to handle a whole swarm of boats/tanks.

    3. laird cummings

      You seem to forget...

      That naval helos spend a fair bit of time supporting...Marines. Whom do most of their business on land, no matter that they came in by the wet route. And what dose land have..? Terrain! things behind which to hide... IOW, you fail.

      Also note - that with pods of FnF missiles, it's a fairly easy step to develop bolt-on fire-control interfaces for traditionally unarmed helos - now any mundane UH-60 or CH-47* can become a one-aircraft wave of destruction. This multiplies the number of potential shooters by a HUGE number with relative ease.

      * One wonders, with a bit of awe, just how many 76-rocket pods one could deploy on a CH-47.

  3. Jonathan White


    Anyone else reminded of the 'pepperpot' missile systems they always have in anime shows like Appleseed?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @Jonathan White

      I think that Macross (especially Macross Plus) is a better example in anime, but it is quite a common theme.

      I sometimes wonder where all these missiles are stored, especially in the transforming robot/planes that must have so much more gubbins under the skins, but if it were realistic, it would not be so visual.

      1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
        Thumb Up

        There's a youtube for it.

        Ok, it's not Macross, but of the same vein and era. I'd like a bike like that :P

    2. Bill Neal



    3. Field Commander A9

      Not only in anime though

      Ever watched the trailers for Ghost Recon Future Soldiers?

  4. LPF
    Thumb Up

    Good idea , they used it for smart bombs...

    But the thing about war is then someone will think of a counter measure, be it better armour or , fast reacting lightweight, AI controlled AA that willl snuff out any helicopter that comes walzting in.

    At the moment everyone in thew western military, is saying drones are the future and that all attacks will now be carried out either at medium level or by cruise misslies.

    You can better your bottom dollar, right at this moment, people are working on systems to bring down drones, interfere with satelite control, or working on AA systems capable of tracking and taking down cruise missiles over a designated area.

    Of course its easy to launch cruise missles against eniemies without a significant navy, but I will bet people are also working on long range , ship hunting misslies and costal diesal subs to again make people think carefully before coming in close to launch,

    and then the other side will start work on how to counter that and so on.

    Death tech , making a boring afternoon at work fun :D

    1. Field Commander A9

      don't worry!

      some navies are developing long range railguns that can't be stopped without a force shield (true story)!

    2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      I can just imagine why the navy is interested...

      A stealthy and/or high speed surface hugging cruise missile / drone big enough to carry lots of these of which it would deploy before it itself becomes too vulnerable to the chance of interception.

      Ships don't tend to have armour these days and they have all those delicate bits (radar antennae) etc... I mean, your typical air defence destroyer/frigate sprayed by small munitions like this. While not likely to sink it... they're bound to mess up 'something important', I would suspect.

      And after that...

      The real heavy hitters can come in, less impeded by concerns of PDS, anti-missles which may possibly now be effectively suppressed, and clean everything else up.

      How does this work out in the sims compared to just saturating the target battlefleet with anti-ship missiles?

      1. BorkedAgain

        Doesn't handle rejection well.

        "...anti-ship missiles..."

        I read that as "anti-sheep missiles" and wondered what they'd done to offend you...

  5. Chimp

    Your old mother

    A very risky acronym.... Guarantee it gets called the CLIT by the lads in the field.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      In United States, CLITS find you!

    2. lawndart


      Another risk - that they'll put the missile down somewhere and never be able to find it again.

  6. Ian Ferguson

    Sounds like the perfect weapon... take out helicopters and drone aircraft while staying hidden or running in cover.

    I'm sure certain foreign clients will buy them by the truckload once these start appearing at arms fairs.

  7. Doug 3

    strapped a beagleboard running OpenCV onto a dumb rocket


    granade, because sometimes things must go boom

  8. Clive Galway

    They obviously need a low cost solution BAD

    As they clearly don't have enough cash to even deinterlace their promo.

  9. JDX Gold badge

    Knife Missile?

    Isn't this the thing from Iron Man?

  10. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    A Pod Of...

    ...these on a few merchant ships would pretty much end the pirate menace.

    A much smaller version was carried by Harrison Ford in BLADE RUNNER, but you need to read the book (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) for details.

    1. longbeast

      Not solving the right part of the problem.

      Weaponry capable of destroying a small cluster of motorboats has never been the real problem in stopping piracy. The problem is that pirates are difficult to tell apart from innocent fishing boats. You can't just spray missiles at every other vessel that comes close, and assume that non-pirates will all stay away from your ship.

  11. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Down

    "make a (very large) hole in the victim's body."

    Wasn't the hole in the boat comment primarily because it was just a test firing? In those cases I imagine an explosive warhead is a no-no (heavier, more expensive, more dangerous to handle, and will probably destroy your target, when you'd really prefer to be able to examine it afterwards!).

  12. Stratman
    Thumb Down


    "This, as the ONR vid above hints, might not require any explosive warhead at all:"

    Where's the fun in that?

    1. Field Commander A9


      less collateral damage?

  13. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Heatseeker vs low thermal emissivity target

    Unlike the cartoons, uncooled thermal heatseekers don't wait behind doors for somebody to walk past - they can pretty much only target something significantly hotter than the background, and even then it has to be black (at least in the IR)

    An expensive cooled thermal imaging camera can pick out a person in a desert at night under good conditions. But this is going to have real problems if your enemy is walking around in a body temperature desert during the day and insists on using donkeys instead of Humvees.

    1. Gordon 10

      I may be wrong

      But IR imaging <> (necessarily) heat seeking.

      There are a huge range of IR wavelengths.

    2. Magnus_Pym

      Boats as examples

      O wondered if that was why boat swarms were used as an example; hot engines + group of warm humans against a uniformly cold sea.

    3. SkippyBing

      Who says it's not cooled?

      Most* IR missiles have some form of coolant, either supplied from the launch aircraft or a little bottle of compressed gas in the missile itself that is activated during the lock on phase of the launch cycle.

      *Early Sidewinders weren't cooled but it was one of the first things they did to improve the performance. Invented at the same place incidentally.

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @A Pod Of

    Trouble is the same pod on a merchant ship parked in Long Beach or New Jersey would also pretty much end civil aviation in the USA

    Must remember put a check box on the website that they aren't to be sold to naughty people.

    You would think that page one on the DARPA procurement powerpoint would be something like "could this weapon be best used by an untrained hidden enemy against very expensive modern armies?" if so don't make it.

  15. scarshapedstar


    "Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS)"

    Wonder why they didn't call it the Cost-Lowered Imaging Terminal Seeker?

  16. Robert E A Harvey

    "& forget"

    does this mean MOD staff will be leaving these on trains instead of laptops?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "even though a Javelin is expensive"...

    Hey - who cares, its not your money. Its not like the country or the MOD is bankrupt or anything.

    /sarcasm off.

    1. SkippyBing

      If someone's shooting at me

      and all I have is a Javelin, I'm firing the Javelin and the deficit can f**k off.

      Similarly if the choice between winning and losing is firing a few Javelins before getting close enough to use guns, I'm firing Javelins. Sure I might get told off for firing the 'expensive' missile but I'm alive to be told off so win = me.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are many differant missile systems coming along like this.

    The Future Lynx has a laser guided 13Kg missile based on the Star Streak, for instance and there are 6kg missiles being developed for UAV's.

    However, they will not be very cheap as the cost of guidance is far more than the size of the warhead.

  19. Martin Usher

    Image seeker?

    I think the new generation of weapons don't lock onto a heat source or anything like that. You effectively give them a picture of what you're after and they just follow the target about until its time to hit it. This sounds a bit sci-fi but its consistent with the trend to add intelligence to weapons -- the weapons themselves are pretty effective, adding intelligence allows you to be more effective with smaller devices.

    The "Switchblade" is one of these new generation weapons. Its a tiny drone intended as a personal attack aircraft ("sniper replacement"). It lurks until it sees the target and......

  20. FozzyBear

    I need a few of these

    to thin out our marketing department. They seem to Proliferate faster than maggots on rotting meat

  21. Random Yayhoo

    not 6.2 kg...

    The mass figure is wrong. 6.2 kg could be the seeker + warhead, but the rocket motor accounts for at least 6kg by itself. 15kg is more like it. But that's worlds lighter than a Hellfire, innit?

    @AC: "...A FnF on a ground attack heli makes a LOT of sense. It has somewhere to hide and "go to ground". A navy helicopter has no such place. If the target has the means to defend itself it is dead meat. So this is all a big waste of money. As usual. Shiny new toys. Budget. Dosh. Pork."

    You forgot the thing called LAND, over which naval (especially Marine Corps) helicopters often fly. Also, Stingers and Strelas are not naval weapons on boats or ships (not "navalized"), though they sometimes can be found there. The new weapons in this guided 70mm class would also have the range advantage that launch altitude brings.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Also, Stingers and Strelas are not naval weapons on boats or ships (not "navalized"),"

      How do you "navalise" a hand held missile system?

      If the person firing it is standing on a ship, then surely it becomes a naval weapon...? Someone with an SA-7 is a threat if they are standing on grass, tarmac or a ship's hull.

      1. Mayhem

        Navalised in this context

        Basically means made out of slightly different materials to make it less vulnerable to salt corrosion, and means it still works when it gets wet from spray or is accidentally dropped in the surf. There also tends to be a bit of extra circuitry to handle launching from unstable platforms.

        He's saying most handheld weapons systems aren't designed for long term deployment in a marine environment, but that they can be bunged on the back of a boat by Unfriendly Powers for short term deployment although they probably won't be in very good shape unless well cleaned afterwards.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fighting the wrong war

    The main threat is still terrorist / insurgent / guerillas against which these things will have limited use. Sure they will be shit-hot at killing people and more cost effective than teh current solutions available - but the problem we have now is in identifying the enemy and isolating them from sub-optimal targets (civilians / hostages / News cameramen / Wedding parties etc.).

    At the moment the US may have a fairly lax attitude towards "collateral damage" but they are being more and more isolated in this and attitudes in the US seem to be changing, albeit slowly.

    But, point still stands - all this would do is make it a bit cheaper to kill innocents, civilians and the wrong targets along with the intended bad guys.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I thougt news cameramen were optimal targets.

      And anyone who has seen Bond KNOWS Wedding parties consist entirely of hostiles.

  23. Matware

    I think this makes swarms infinitely more dangerous

    It's interesting that you read this as swarms of RHIBs as doomed. I imagine something like a coordinated swarm of Combat Boat 90Hs equipped with these little beasties would punch well above their weight and truly terrify a conventional navy.

  24. Sentient

    This guy will like this...

  25. Repo

    It's a good job it wasn't called the

    Costs Less Imaging Terminal Seeker (CLITS)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    You know you've been playing too much WoW...

    "US Navy produces smart, cheap 6kg fire+forget missile"

    ... when you read 6KG as 6,000 gold er... AND think that's cheap.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Lee

    The fact that its smaller doesn't just mean that they can carry more of them. It also means that the amount of explosive in the warhead will be significantly smaller too. At the moment, they're not-using hellfires because of the warhead size - its too big, and causes too much collateral damage - but until now its been the smallest smart weapon available. With the 70mm rockets, they'll have a much smaller chance of killing random bystanders.

  28. Magnus_Pym
    Thumb Up

    Kinect + rockets = win

    They could fit these babies with kinect and use the spacial awareness to hold to the target. Once the CIA get hold of all the xbox data they could not only target an individual by facial recognition but update their play states to 'deceased' at the same time.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Fire & forget - countermeasures anyone?

    The scenario I am thinking about is a swarm of fast attack boats or other vehicles. Chopper unloads a pod of heat-seeking rockets in their direction and buggers off out of sight of AA defences.

    One of the targets launches a flare. All of the rockets home in on the flare and blow each other up? Even without countermeasures there might still be a risk that all the rockets would just go for the hottest engine...

    Some sort of autonomous network would seem to be ideal, allowing the munitions to communicate about targets during flight and ensure there is no confusion. They could count themselves off against the targets, possibly in some sort of priority order.

    1. Mayhem

      Heat seeker != modern infrared targetting

      Old school systems simply tracked the hottest target, so flares etc become suitable countermeasures, along with flying into the sun.

      These days they use infrared cameras which are work just like video cameras, they caret a target and off goes the weapon looking for what matches its internal picture. Flares still work to a certain extent, but they work by blinding the camera, not by distracting it. At which point the inertial systems kick in by making the missile keep aiming for where the target *should be* until the camera comes back up. Better hope you have a few more flares.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Yes, I thought somebody would respond along that theme. I suppose changes in movement / direction would help the target to reduce the risk of a hit based on inertia / predicted location.

  30. Brett Weaver

    ..Probably not important but..

    A couple of things:

    1) The Navy came up with this? I would have thought the Airforce or Army had a greater need. Maybe the Navy has a higher IQ?

    2) The computational power to achieve what these things do is now easily accomodated by an iphone. Make the future just that little bit more scary

    Mines the one with real core in the pocket..

  31. Matt Hamilton


    Is it just me or did it actually *miss* the truck at 1:00?


    1. bugalugs


      it went straight thru the silhouette target ...

      looked like the third hit, too

  32. Graham Bartlett

    In film

    Anyone remember the 80s film "Runaway"? As well as the cool robot spiders, the head baddie also had a gun where the sights would save your IR signature, and the mini-missiles it fired would seek that IR signature.

    1. laird cummings

      A step closer... the 'smart bullet.'

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I can't help thinking

    that the target won't need flares as a counter-measure - fire a bunch of these and they'll all be dazzling each other's cameras.

  34. Paul Johnston

    How would this have stopped ...

    USS Cole anyone.

    If you see a bloody big swarm of boats coming towards you it should set off alarm bells.

    If it's only one or two you think bumboat!

    In was thinking of posting this anonymously but suggest you look up "bumboat" first then have a laugh. Anyone who has been through Suez will know what I mean.

    1. SkippyBing

      USS COLE

      To be honest the world's navies came up with a response to this about 9 years ago, strangely. To whit don't let anyone you don't like/know within 100 yards. The upper deck security through Suez these days is nothing like it was a decade ago and a seconds worth of .50 cal will stop any suicide boat far enough away that it won't matter.

      1. Paul Johnston


        How can you do this in another countries port?

        Are you able to get separation of 100m between military and local traffic these days?

        As you point out I was at sea in what now seems like a different world.

        Remember my "Merchant Navy Security Course" 1981-2 with great affection :-)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modern IR

    Modern anti-ship missiles IR seekers are good enough to read the pennant number of the hull and go for the correct ship in a fleet of sister ships. Flares just won't cut it anymore. But a wide beam laser dazzler mght work. That of course is vulnerable to saturation.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better than a sniper ...

    unusually, the Reg is a little bit behind the times here: for REAL assassination weapons and nothing but.

  37. Andydaws

    surely, the

    Cost-Undercutting Naval Thermal Seeker?

  38. thecakeis(not)alie


    Has nobody here considered the feasibility of using these bastards as a ridiculously imbalanced MIRV system? Picture this: a series of disposable drones flys over the combat area and IDs targets. (Before getting erased by AA.) These are supported by a fleet of AWACS escorted by a set of overpowered air-to-air combat planes scan the target battlefield.

    Offshore, a fleet of missile frigates (or freighters with missiles-in-a-box pods?) some several hundred KM away ripple off a few dozen cruise missiles. The cruise missiles get within range of the target battlefield – delivering their payload at supersonic speeds – and then separate the warhead from the propellant stage. The “warhead” is in fact a big old box of 70mm death rockets. With the AWACS providing targeting, we are talking about the ability to erase *hundreds* of targets across a very wide area simultaneously.

    Screw taking out a few boats, we are talking about the ability to take a country the size of Libya’s *entire* military out in the first hour or so of combat. All it costs is a few disposable drones, some cruise-missiles in a box and a few pods of 70mm missiles. *Bam.* An entire country rendered unable to mount any serious resistance whatsoever.

    Second stage is to simply fill the sky with another round of drones – these ones being the ones you actually want to keep – whose job it is to perform more intensive recon and hunt out remaining pockets of resistance. With 70mm rockets, you can keep this up for weeks – if not months – before you have to land a single warm body.

    Now you can pacify an entire country remotely! In all honesty, you probably spend less on the disposable missiles and drones involved in this than you would on the gas to land a traditional force, let alone the salaries to pay them and the gear to equip them.

    70mm targeted missiles are a serious game changer. For all the heckling armchair generals will give the idea, we talking about the ability to lay (targeted) waste to entire battlefields for (probably) a tenth the cost in time, money, and lives you would have had to expend without this technology.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like