Artillery: British Boxed Brimstones In Ukraine

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May 22, 2022: Among the growing variety of weapons sent to Ukraine is a special (just for the Ukrainians) ground launched version of the Brimstone missile launched. The improvisation is a box-shaped launcher designed to be bolted to the back of a flatbed truck. Britain took a three-missile Brimstone launcher used by aircraft and mounted four of these launchers in a metal box. Add fire control gear and you have mobile anti-tank missile vehicles. Reload missiles can be carried, in their shipping containers, on any size truck and be used for reloading the truck mounted launchers. In early May video of a truck launcher firing several missiles was released along with another video, taken by a UAV, showing Russian tanks being destroyed by Brimstones.

Originally developed as an upgraded version of the American helicopter-mounted Hellfire missile, Brimstone ended up as a Hellfire in general shape only. Weighing the same as the Hellfire (48.5 kg/107 pounds), Brimstone was designed to be fired by fighter-bombers, not just (as with Hellfire) from helicopters and UAVs. Aircraft can carry a lot of these lightweight missiles. These are perfect for small targets, including vehicles, which need to be hit, without causing injuries to nearby civilians or friendly troops. Brimstone entered service in 2005, and only a few thousand were produced initially. Use was low in Afghanistan, but was much higher in Libya. And that caused other nations to pay attention and seek to get Brimstone for their own use. This was a problem because production was unable to rapidly increase and production lines were already in the midst of retooling for a new version.

In 2010 Britain added a dual-mode (radar and laser) seeker to Brimstone. This version cost $265,000 each, while the single mode (radar) version cost $170,000 each. Brimstone got a chance to show how effective it was in Afghanistan and especially over Libya in 2011. The performance of Brimstone was particularly impressive, and that got the Americans and French interested in using it as a highly effective anti-vehicle weapon for their fast-movers (jet fighter-bombers).

The Brimstone radar seeker makes it easier to use the missile in "fire and forget" mode. The laser seeker is more accurate (to within a meter or two of the aim point.) When used on jet fighters, like the Tornado (and now Typhoon), there is a special launcher that holds three Brimstone missiles (instead of one larger missile). The launcher hangs from one of the Tornado hard points. An improved version of this launcher is now used on the new Typhoon. The nine-kilogram (20 pound) warhead is sufficient to destroy tanks and all other vehicles. British fighter pilots have become quite good at coming in low and taking out individual vehicles with Brimstone missiles. Carrying a dozen or more Brimstones, a fighter-bomber can easily use all of them in one sortie, all the while staying out of range of ground fire.

By 2015 the Brimstone 2 was in service with a range (fired from jets) increased from 20 kilometers to 60 kilometers along with improvements in accuracy and reliability. At the new max-range the Brimstone takes up to three minutes to reach its target.

Brimstone 2 was more precise and accurate in identifying and tracking specific targets, which made it capable of operating like indirect (operator cannot see the target) fire artillery that is based on the ground, or on ships. That quickly evolved into Brimstone 3 with even more guidance system tweaks.

During Brimstone 2 development the missile was also tested operating from ships, as well as ashore, against small boat swarms. This was aimed at tactics Iran and North Korea were prepared to use at sea as well as the mass use of armored vehicles on land. Brimstone succeeded at hitting multiple fast-moving targets at sea and sinking or disabling them.

In 2018 a Polish firm developed and is now producing a tank destroyer vehicle using Brimstone for the surface-to-surface role as long-range guided missile system. The Poles use BMP IFVs (infantry fighting vehicle), which they have plenty of, with the turret replaced by a box launcher carrying twelve Brimstones. All of these missiles can be launched quickly to destroy ten or more tanks up to twenty kilometers away. This BMP also has an RWS (remote weapons system) mount with a heavy machine-gun. A resupply vehicle can quickly replace the empty launcher box with a loaded one. These “Brimstone Mobile Artillery” vehicles would avoid the front line and take fire requests like an artillery unit. Artillery forward observers would use their laser range finders (often built into binoculars) that can save the GPS location of something the observer has located and transmit that GPS target location, along with the distance between the target and friendly troops, so that the needed number of missiles can be fired. The observer notes the results and calls the mission completed or in need of another salvo of missiles. Brimstone can also home in on reflected laser light. The laser designator is provided by someone on the ground or in the air. This can be used to hit slow-moving or stationary helicopters.

Hellfire was first developed in the early 1980s as a helicopter launched anti-tank weapon, but has proved to be very useful against enemy infantry hiding out in buildings or caves. Hellfire later proved to be an ideal weapon for use by larger UAVs. The current version has a range of eight kilometers, while Brimstone 1 has a range of 12 kilometers from helicopters (and 20 from jets).

 


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