overscan (PaulMM)

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27 December 2005
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AST (Air Staff Target) 1227 was a requirement for a PGM for antitank duties. BAe offered the highly supersonic Sabre, based on the Rapier SAM airframe with a laser seeker. Bill Gunston suggests the seeker was by Martin Marietta and related to the Copperhead seeker. Single shot kill probability (SSKP) of 80% was calculated for a typical tank.

  • Bill Gunston, Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Worlds Rockets & Missiles Salamander 1979, p117


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overscan said:
AST (Air Staff Target) 1227 was a requirement for a PGM for antitank duties. BAe offered the highly supersonic Sabre, based on the Rapier SAM airframe with a laser seeker. Bill Gunston suggests the seeker was by Martin Marietta and related to the Copperhead seeker. Single shot kill probability (SSKP) of 80% was calculated for a typical tank.

  • Bill Gunston, Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Worlds Rockets & Missiles Salamander 1979, p117

The French proposed a similar laser guided ASM based on the Roland SAM. The AS.2L (or AS.LL) was apparently dead by 1982.

  • Bill Gunston, An Illustrated Guide To Modern Airborne Missiles Salamander 1983, p80
It's almost asking for a fair-to-middling-weather SAM application, isn't it? Perhaps not that good against fast jets, but death to slower COIN aircraft and helicopters. Semi-active laser homing, with no guidance data-link to jam and potentially easier steering of a much tighter beam.
I can do no more than to echo what Robunos said over on the AGM-64 thread:


When you've found an aerodynamic planform on which you have expended much slide-rule (or computer) and wind-tunnel time, and you find it works, you're going to tend to re-use that planform an awful lot. It cuts down on the work you have to do, since any changes are limited to recalculating centres of gravity versus pressure (based on what you're stuffing inside and where in the missile it's going) to determine the dynamics, and perhaps scaling up or down a little. If you don't stray too far from the original dimensions and you can keep the weight distribution roughly the same, you may not even have to recalculate things like missile body bending moments, the required thickness of the outer skin, etc. etc. And first-approximation calculations of the new missile's aerodynamic performance (upon which, I am guessing, sales brochures are based) can be done very quickly.
It's almost asking for a fair-to-middling-weather SAM application, isn't it? Perhaps not that good against fast jets, but death to slower COIN aircraft and helicopters. Semi-active laser homing, with no guidance data-link to jam and potentially easier steering of a much tighter beam.
Combine it with a giraffe tank design and you could have had quite a good anti-tank/anti-helicopter system for the BAOR in service by the mid-1980s.
from IDR 1978 Vol11 Iss5:
As at last year’s Paris Air Show, Aérospatiale was showing both a full-scale and a model AS.30L laser-guided weapon which has now been test-fired from a Jaguar, but of longer-term interest were the details which could be gleaned on the Aérospatiale / MBB project for an air-to-surface version of the Roland SAM, designated ASLL (Air-Sol Léger Laser). A decision on whether to make this an official Euromissile project was postponed recently, so it remains a purely company development which has yet to receive either French or German Government funding. Nevertheless, work has been going on for nearly two years and the weapon is regarded as fairly well defined.
The missile airframe would be basically that of Roland, fitted with the same Thomson-CSF Arie/ laser seeker as the AS.30Land Thomson-Brandt laser-guided 100 mm rocket (see separate item), with a smaller boost motor (because of the already high launch velocity imparted by the carrier aircraft), modifications to the control system and a ‘‘different’’ warhead. Unlike the Roland SAM, the ASLL would not be tubelaunched, so presumably the flip-out destabilisation fins of the surface-launched missile would be fixed for ASLL. How the companies intend to cope with the change in c.g. resulting from the modifications remains to be seen, but size and weight of the system should be such as to allow carriage of six missiles under each wing of, for example, an F-16. Timescale for availability of the 8-10 km range ASLL, the manufacturers feel, should run roughly in parallel with the F-16.
Meanwhile, in UK, the contenders to meet Air Staff Target 1227 have been narrowed to two: the British Aerospace Sabre and a Hunting Engineering cluster bomb, either powered or fitted with wings for launch at stand-off range and medium altitude. Sabre is an exact parallel of ASLL, being an air-launched development of the Rapier SAM using semi-active laser guidance. A Martin Marietta seeker, developed from the company’s Copperhead CLGP unit and displayed on the stand at Hanover alongside an unlabelled line drawing of Sabre, would be fitted, the British company feeling that Martin has now perfected mass production techniques and that no-one else could beat their price. Most of the rest of the missile would be standard Rapier, of which 9,000 have now been built so BAe has high confidence in reliability and quality control of the system. Weight of Sabre would probably be in the region of 60 kg, compared with Rapier’s 43 kg, some of the increase resulting from areas of double-skinning required to meet the environmental demands of air carriage and launch. This is almost exactly the same as that of a Roland round, so a similar number to ASLL could be carried. One of the principal advantages of either ASLL or Sabre compared with, for example, the subsonic US Maverick and Hellfire is their high supersonic speed. Trials on a Martin Marietta simulator, complete with terrain model, have convinced BAe that, because of the reduced time of missile flight, up to four Sabres could be fired on a single pass, each with an 80% single-shot kill probability against a main battle tank. Indeed, the company believes that a guided missile is the only sensible way of fulfilling AST 1227 requirements, maintaining that a cluster bomb dispensing sub-munitions has a relatively low chance of disabling a reasonable number of tanks. Furthermore, the company has doubts about the armour- piercing qualities of bomblets small enough to be dispensed from an AST 1227-sized cluster unit and says that a dangerous 7-10 sec straight-and-level run-in is needed to deliver such a weapon accurately A decision by the RAF Air Staff on whether to go for missiles or cluster bombs for AST 1227 is due in August, although there are indications that the service really wants both. In this case, Sabre may be officially chosen while Hunting is encouraged to continue development on a MoD- sponsored private-venture basis similar to that which resulted in the company’s BL755 cluster bomb. Meanwhile, the British Army is believed to support Sabre, one reason being that it is seen as being more suitable for potential use on the Hawk weapon-training aircraft. With the shortage of close air support for the Army in Germany, they would like to see these aircraft available for operational use, possibly with a ground tradesman acting as electro-optics officer in the back seat.
While Harrier, Jaguar and AST 403 remain the prime candidates for Sabre, the possibility has also been examined of arming, for example, the Lynx helicopter with the weapon, in order to counter the Soviet Hind D which is both faster and more manoeuvrable than it was at first given credit for. Sabre might just also have an air- to-air role from fixed-wing aircraft, but pro- bably only as a last line of self-defense.
The question of a designator pod to work with missiles such as ASLL or Sabre is now the subject of a NATO initiative, according to one industry source at Hanover. Obvious candidates are the Thomson-CSF/ Martin Marietta Atlis 2, Westinghouse Pave Spike C and Northrop Improved LATAR, although in UK Ferranti is favoured to provide an illuminator, possibly on a collaborative basis. Pave Spike pods already bought for RAF Buccaneers are regarded as an interim solution ASLL is clearly linked with Atlis, also on show on the Martin stand, and the Sabre simulator trials were carried out assuming use of the Franco-American designator. The USAF is hoping to revive a clear requirement for an Advanced Laser Designator (ALD) by the end of this year and some industry sources have pointed out that an Anglo-American missile with a Franco-American pod could make a very positive contribution both to standardisation and the two-way street in arms procurement.
Meanwhile, BAe is making an effort to have Sabre adopted by the German Air Force for use on the Alpha Jet, although Hellfire is regarded as currently the strongest contender, and has opened preliminary discussions with Sweden to seduce that country away from the proposed B83. The infra-red seeker from the cancelled Rb72 air-to-air missile is being adapted for use in B83, has been test-flown and proved its ability to discriminate between flares and real targets (a potential problem partly responsible for a version of the BAe SRAAM air-to-air missile dropping out of the AST 1227 competition). It works in the 7-14 μ band and is thus suitable for air-to-ground applications. Nevertheless, it is understood that a proposal may be made to the Swedes to adopt the Sabre airframe and motor with their own seeker, which would then result in a common missile with alternative infra-red or semi-active laser seekers.
and from IDR 1978 Vol11 Iss9:
The Franco-German ASLL is at the beginning of a joint study phase between the European manufacturers (Aérospatiale and MBB) and US Roland licensees Hughes and Boeing, the aim being to decide on markets and applications. There is no memorandum of understanding between Euromissile and Hughes on ASLL — indeed, this version is still not an official Euromissile project. While it is clearly being aimed at markets like F- 16 operators, development would take ‘a few years at least’ and service entry would be in ‘the early 1980s’’ at the earliest. Nevertheless, government-to-government talks are understood to be proceeding at the same time as industry discussions in the light of the proposed family of weapons, and the fact that Roland is already in production in the US, albeit for the US Army and not the Air Force, could prove a powerful political and industrial factor in negotiations. Thomson-CSF, already teamed with Martin Marietta on the ATLIS designator pod, is expected to support ASLL strongly in the US since the company would also provide the Ariel seeker for the missile.
IDR sources all agree that the proposed BAe Sabre is further into development than its European competitor. The missile would have a Martin CLS- 2 laser seeker similar to that employed in Martin's CASM, tested with Laser Maverick, and simulator trials done in conjunction with the US company and linked with the ATLIS pod are said to have been very satisfactory. Sabre characteristics were also assumed in a small number of the F-16/ATLIS flights last summer, the only weapon apart from the glide bombs to be included in the tests.
Impetus for development of Sabre also comes from the fact that it is already in competition (against a Hunting Engineering canard-controlled cluster weapon) to meet RAF Air Staff Target 1227. If selected, it might be associated with the ATLIS although there is pressure in UK for a British-developed (probably Ferranti) pod The RAF meanwhile. has been keen to acquire an ATLIS 2 for flight trials on a development two-seat Jaguar and IDR understands that the US has agreed to release its one pod between January and April 1979 It is not known at the time of writing whether the RAF will take up this offer but in the light of the AGM package negotiations. it seems possible that the AST 1227 decision (put off from August until December) may be deferred again until such trials can be done.
Meanwhile, eight pilots have now flown the ATLIS/Sabre combination in simulation, four RAF, three General Dynamics and one USAF. Pilot workload is reported as acceptable even at low level and one experienced RAF pilot is said to have regularly achieved two or three shots on a single pass (using a launch-before-designate technique) with high hit probability on each.
According to General Dynamics, no further company-funded flight-trials are planned and the outcome of NATO negotiations and USAF reprogramming efforts are awaited. It is understood that if the money were acquired, USAF-funded flight-tests of ATLIS 2 would begin during the second quarter of 1980. If a firm USAF requirement for such a system were established and the Franco-American pod bought, it is believed that it would be proposed for installation only on the F- 16. The choice of weapon would then be up to the USAF, with Hellfire supported by Rockwell International, ASLL by Euromissile, Thomson-CSF and Hughes/ Boeing, and Sabre by BAe and Martin Marietta.
Among the European countries, the weapon choice is less clear. In UK, Sabre is clearly strongly placed, with the other two not currently being evaluated. France is planning to arm Jaguars with the first-generation AS.30L in conjunction with ATLIS and may have no requirement for ASLL for a number of years, even though both missiles use the same Ariel seeker. Germany's MBB is associated through Euromissile with ASLL but the Luftwaffe is also known to be evaluating Hellfire for use on close air support Alpha Jets. In addition, UK is understood to be making a strong pitch in Germany with the Sabre.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that Martin Marietta is offering a laser seeker derived from that in its 155mm Copperhead CLGP for use on the proposed Diehl Bussard 120 mm mortar round, in competition with a seeker from Bodenseewerk (IDR 5/78, p. 721). Although not being discussed as part of the AGM package, Bussard is also the subject of US interest, which may encourage the Germans to standardise on laser seekers and enable Martin to establish a European laser-guided weapon manufacturing consortium with Diehl and BAe Dynamics, covering production and two-way street marketing of Copperhead, Sabre and Bussard as well as follow-on weapons and seekers. The two European companies in fact signed initial memoranda of agreement to this effect with Martin Marietta on October 13, 1978, and the consortium proposal is now up for approval by the US Administration.

I find the last bit of the second article particularly interesting. Its really a shame that we didnt get transatlatic manufacturing of Copperhead, Sabre and Bussard all using the same laser-seeker.


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