Air Weapons: Talon Is Certified


May 24, 2014: The U.S. Army recently certified the Talon 70mm laser guided missile as compatible with the AH-64 helicopter gunship. The Talon can be fired from existing M260 seven tube or M261 nineteen tube launchers. These launchers are also used on the AH-6 and OH-58 light scout helicopters. Talon was developed by Raytheon in an effort financed by the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and the resulting weapon, Talon, was ready for sale in 2010 and configured for use by UAE AH-64 helicopter gunships. So far the only user has been the UAE, for its own AH-64s. But with the U.S. Army certification it will be easier to get other AH-64 users to consider adopting Talon.

Talon, like other 70mm laser guided missiles, is compatible with existing laser designators and aircraft equipped to use Hellfire missiles. The big advantage of all these 70mm missiles is that each is one fourth the weight of a Hellfire, and one about a third the cost. That means AH-64s burn less fuel carrying them, and the 70mm missile is as effective as a Hellfire in destroying most of the small targets Hellfire is used against. But there are already many similar weapons available for this and few nations want to add what they consider a redundant weapon system.

Back in 2010 the U.S. Marine Corps adopted a similar weapon, the AKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) kits for its own gunships. The marines bought kits to convert some of the 100,000 70mm unguided rockets they had to laser guided ones. In 2013 the marines bought over 20,000 newly manufactured AKWS II missiles. This was the first large purchase of 70mm guided missiles, after a decade of sales efforts by several manufacturers. The marines arm their AH-1W helicopter gunships with the guided 70mm rockets and in 2012 marine AH-1Ws have fired over a hundred AKWS II in Afghanistan and none of them missed.

The price of the new 70mm missile is about $30,000 each. This is typical for these weapons and about a third less than a smart bomb and less than a third of what a Hellfire missile costs. The guided 70mm rocket is used against targets that doesn't require a larger (49 kg/108 pound), and more expensive (over $100,000), Hellfire missile but still needs some targeting precision. In tests 70mm laser guided missiles regularly hit within a meter (a few feet) of the aiming point. The 70mm missile makes an excellent weapon for UAVs, especially since you can carry more of them. The launcher for carrying these missiles is designed to replace the one for Hellfire but can carry four missiles instead of one.

All these 70mm guided rockets are basically 13.6 kg (30 pound) 70mm rockets with a laser seeker, a 2.7 kg (six pound) warhead, and a range of about six kilometers when fired from the air. Laser designators on a helicopter, or with troops on the ground, are pointed at the target and the laser seeker in the front of the 70mm missile homes in on the reflected laser light.

The 2.75 inch (70mm) rockets were developed during World War II but was never widely used until the 1960s when it was discovered that the weapon worked very well when launched from multiple (7 or 19 tube) launchers mounted on helicopters. The 108-138m cm (42-55 inch) long rockets could be fired singly or in salvoes and gave helicopter pilots some airborne artillery for supporting troops on the ground. There are many variations in terms of warheads and rocket motors. Some versions can go over 10 kilometers.

Raytheon also has a version of Talon for small ships. This new version uses the existing LAU-68 launcher for 70mm rockets, but linked to a fire control system that can put a laser on the ship or boat that the 70mm missiles can find and hit. Fired from the surface these 70mm missiles have a range of five kilometers. The LAU-68 filled with seven 70mm missiles weighs about 227 kg (500 pounds) and is small and light enough to be mounted on small ships. The problem is there are already many models of missiles and autocannon already available for this sort of thing. This has been the problem with all version of these 70mm missiles.






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