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Hughes AGM-124 Wasp

overscan

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Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/PDFArchive/View/1983/1983%20-%200071.html

Wasp: millimetre-wave mini-missile

The Warsaw Pact has many more tanks than Nato. But when the attack begins, not all those tanks will be available. On both sides there will be a race to reinforce the front line, to replace losses and to overwhelm weak defences. Warsaw Pact lines of communicationare all overland, while Nato must rely on long, vulnerable air and sea bridges. To attack Warsaw Pact reinforcements while they are still far from the front line requires a weapon with long range, but with surgical accuracy. Tanks move, and their armour protection requires a direct hit with a lethal warhead to ensure a kill.

There is no shortage of targets, and no possibility of confusion with friendly forces, but each weapon must be able to isolate, from other less vital targets, the tanks it has come to kill. Aircraft still offer the most flexible, effective method of attacking targets deep in enemy territory. Flying low and fast, and making full use of electronic and lethal countermeasures, an aircraft can penetrate in all weathers. But tanks, however far from the front line, are not left undefended. For an aircraft to survive in the face of heavy air defences, it must attack on the first pass, destroying the maximum number of targets before escaping without seeing, or being seen by, its target.

Under the umbrella of the Wide Area Anti-Armour Munitions programme, the US Air Force has had mixed success in its efforts to develop air-delivered weapons for use against such "second-echelon" targets. One approach, however, appears to be exceeding expectations, and that is the Wasp anti-armour mini-missile now under development by Hughes Aircraft Missile Systems Group. Wasp is a 120 lb weapon designed to be carried in large numbers by F-16s, A-10s, and F-111Fs. Fired in swarms from underwing pods, the Wasp mini-missile will autonomously search for, acquire, and attack armoured vehicles using an all-weather millimetre wave radar seeker. Launched at low level from an aircraft out of sight of its target, the missiles fly a series of preprogrammed manoeuvres until they acquire the correct target, then dive to penetrate the tank's vulnerable top armour.

Wasp mini-missiles are carried in a 12-round launch pod, which also serves as an environmentally sealed shipping and storage container. Shelf life is ten years, and the pod and the missiles it contains require no maintenance, only an external damage check before being loaded on to the aircraft.

The pod weighs 2,000 lb and fits a standard bomb-rack. An F-16 would carry two Wasp pods; an A-10 or F-111 , four. The missiles can be fired singly or in salvoes of up to 12, and the pods are jettisoned when empty. Inside the pod are six 9in diameter launch tubes. Two missiles are loaded one behind the other in each of these tubes. Rocket efflux from the forward missile is deflected towards the centre of the pod to protect the radome of the aft Wasp. Rapid sequential launch of the missiles requires that a second Wasp be fired before the first has cleared its tube. The firing sequence is therefore forward, adjacent forward, then aft, continuing round the pod. A sensor in the nose of each aft missile aborts launch should the forward Wasp remain in the tube.

The Wasp installation makes maximum use of existing cockpit facilities, including stores control panel and weapon-release switches. The only essential is an aircraft inertial platform for waypoint navigation. The pod itself contains all launch control and reporting electronics. The folding-fin missile is of traditional Hughes design, with delta wings ahead of rectangular cruciform control surfaces.
The boost motor, a variant of that developed for the Tow anti-tank weapon, burns for 1-2sec, just long enough to blast the missile clear of its launch tube. Ahead of the booster are two sustainer motors, which ignite when cruise velocity drops below a minimum value required for effective seeker search.

Wasp is 8in in diameter, with folding wings and fins. Behind the millimetre-wave seeker and its electronics is the shaped-charge
warhead 1
hinge 2
inertial measurement unit 3
batteries 4
sustainer motors 5
safe/arm device 6
and boost motor 7.
Actuates electronics 8
actuator 9
and gas bottle 10
make up the flight control section 11.
Twelve Wasps are carried in a sealed launch pod with exhaust deflector 12
for the forward missiles, standard 30in bomb-rack connections 13
umbilical 14
and central exhaust tube 15
 

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PMN1

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I had heard of Wasp a few times before but only saying 'it was decided swarms of wasps were not the answer'.

Any ideas on the range?

I wonder how much of the research ended up in the LOCAAS programme - that apparently has scenarios whereby swarms of LOCAAS fly in 'wolf-pack' with the ability to tell each other about new target.
 

PMN1

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I've seen another reason why the Wasp was cancelled, it sems there were concerns at the ability of the launching aircrafat to survive WP airspace in the early nineties.

Any reason why the seeker couldn't have been fitted to a longer misisle with more range and make the pod a 6 round rather than 12 round?
 

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PMN1 said:
I've seen another reason why the Wasp was cancelled, it sems there were concerns at the ability of the launching aircrafat to survive WP airspace in the early nineties.

Any reason why the seeker couldn't have been fitted to a longer misisle with more range and make the pod a 6 round rather than 12 round?
Actually, the current Brimstone missile is similar in overall size to Wasp? Would a Brimstone carrying aircraft have survived in the sort of air defense environment that was anticipated for Wasp?

I'm inclined to say that with the novel tandem carriage and bespoke launcher assembly, Wasp was a very expensive anti-armor weapon system. In comparison, Brimstone was an adaptation of the existing Hellfire missile, with the benefit of an additional decade of hindsight. I fear that Wasp was simply too ambitious for its time.

As to the issue of range, I would think that the target acquisition range of the carrier aircraft might have been the limiting factor. In this era, the USAF was very serious about low altitude tactics in Europe.
 

GeorgeA

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Some of the impetus for Wasp (or at least the Wasp CONOPS) came from the late 1970s pre-ATF air-to-ground variants, specifically the Mach 2.5 concept that was intended to attack second-echelon armor using Pave Mover data. This is mentioned in Piccirillo's (sp?) history of the ATF.
 

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Wasp

The objective of the Wasp programme, in official language, is "to provide, in cost-effective quantities, a lethal, small, 'fire and forget' air-to-ground missile that can be launched in multiples on one pass against mass armour. The combination of discriminating pre-launch weapon programming and a shaped-charge hit-to-kill warhead results in a very high probability of kill (P)". Hughes is engaged in the validation phase of Wasp at present, prior to a 48-month full-scale development phase which should begin next year.

Twelve Wasp missiles are carried in a six-tube pod/launcher, with two Wasps in tandem in each tube. F-16 aircraft will carry two pods (24 Wasps) per aircraft, while A-10s and F-111Fs will carry four pods (48 Wasps) per aircraft. The missile is a 'wooden' round: no assembly, checkout or maintenance will be required after leaving the factory and before launch.
The primary goal of the Wasp system is to attack second-echelon armour, achieving many kills per pass despite a covert launch and uncertainties in target positions. A low-altitude, high-speed approach and launch is envisaged, the launching aircraft making an immediate escape after releasing the missiles. The second goal is to provide close air support, striking visually acquired targets of opportunity from overt launches.

Conventional in design, Wasp is equipped with a millimetre-wave radar seeker and target detection/acquisition electronics with the ability to lock-on after launch. It is preprogrammed to recognise and attack certain targets, and to manoeuvre so as to hit the more vulnerable areas of the acquired target. "Target destruction is accomplished by a hit-to-kill, shaped-charge warhead", the company states, and electronic counter-countermeasures are incorporated in the electronics design.

Thus the system should give the launch aircrew the maximum protection from enemy defence; they can make a low approach and release the missiles without having to see the target, and the missile needs no further help after launch to find and destroy the target.

"Each Wasp is prioritised and assigned to a specific attack mode prior to launch", the company notes. "At launch and after end-of-boost motor burn, the missile will climb or descend to a search altitude and look for targets. The Wasp digital processor will control all flight and target search, acquisition and track functions as shown opposing. The sustainer motors will be ignited when required to sustain minimum flight speed. After confirmation of lock-on, the missile will perform a diving attack on the target. The contact fuze will arm the warhead and detonate the warhead instantly on impact, thereby providing the lethal energy to destroy the target."

The Wasp system is designed to be compatible initially with F-16, A-10 and F-lllF aircraft, and later with other NATO aircraft such as the Mirage V, Alpha Jet, Jaguar, Tornado and Harrier.

The present validation phase will culminate in test firings of eight missiles from an F-16 aircraft in November this year. In preparation for the firings, breadboard versions of the Wasp guidance section are being tested in a "roofhouse" facility (from the roof of a Hughes building in California the system is tested against tank and truck targets in a nearby test range) and in captive-flight tests on a UH-1N helicopter and a test-instrumented T-39 Sabreliner against ground targets at different sites.
(In films of captive-flight tests at Eglin Air Force Base, using a zoom camera to simulate the approach of the missile to its target, 12 simulated missiles were seen to lock-on accurately to 12 targets).

In tests to date, Hughes reports, the Wasp autopilot and radar seeker/signal processor have met or exceeded their performance requirements. The software has been progressively
refined as the tests have continued, and the in-flight testing has passed 150 hours. Hybrid micro-electronic circuitry used in the development systems will be replaced by large-scale integration (LSI) technology on the production version. Extensive captive-flight tests with an F-16 aircraft, using a variety of tactical targets at Eglin Air Force Base, will precede the live single in-flight firings of the eight test missiles in November. The full-scale development phase will include the launch of more than 300 Wasps from F-16s and possibly A-10s and F-111Fs.

Source:
Jane's Defence Review Vol 3 No.5 1982
 

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I know that this is an old topic, but I know why the AGM-124 WASP was never adopted.

The Hughes AGM-124 WASP was one of the weapons commonly advertised in the 1980s as "brilliant" missiles. "Brilliant" meaning, it was supposed to find and destroy a specific target, out of several. The WASP was intended to be a tiny munition that could be carried in large numbers aboard a Fighter, Affacker, or Striker, allowing them to attack a large number of targets simultaneously from a standoff distance.

On the very first demonstration of the WASP, however, it proved less-than-brilliant. It was programmed to fly down a column of 6 target tanks on the Eglin AFB target range, and attack only the 6th tank... but it proved unable to count more than 5 targets in one pass, and went after a vehicle on a different part of the range.

In a later test of the WASP at Eglin AFB, it once again failed to attack the 6th tank in the formation --- but this time it locked onto a CIVILIAN CAR on a nearby freeway! Fortunately, the WASP ran out of fuel and crashed long before it got to the freeway.

Not only did the WASP prove less than "brilliant" time and again, but it's promised $25000 Unit Cost had been exceeded several times over. Fortunately, it was cancelled once all this was realized.
 

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Blacktail said:
I know that this is an old topic, but I know why the AGM-124 WASP was never adopted.

The Hughes AGM-124 WASP was one of the weapons commonly advertised in the 1980s as "brilliant" missiles. "Brilliant" meaning, it was supposed to find and destroy a specific target, out of several. The WASP was intended to be a tiny munition that could be carried in large numbers aboard a Fighter, Affacker, or Striker, allowing them to attack a large number of targets simultaneously from a standoff distance.

On the very first demonstration of the WASP, however, it proved less-than-brilliant. It was programmed to fly down a column of 6 target tanks on the Eglin AFB target range, and attack only the 6th tank... but it proved unable to count more than 5 targets in one pass, and went after a vehicle on a different part of the range.

In a later test of the WASP at Eglin AFB, it once again failed to attack the 6th tank in the formation --- but this time it locked onto a CIVILIAN CAR on a nearby freeway! Fortunately, the WASP ran out of fuel and crashed long before it got to the freeway.

Not only did the WASP prove less than "brilliant" time and again, but it's promised $25000 Unit Cost had been exceeded several times over. Fortunately, it was cancelled once all this was realized.
Source? I can't really follow, if it couldn't 'count' the sixth tank after counting five why did it try to attack another target? In effect isn't that the six tank or more precisely it identified the 'sixth' target'? If it couldn't count 'six' wouldn't it be programmed to abort?

But if this happened and given this is 1982 or over 30 years ago doesn't sound that the testing was that bad. In fact in the second test to supposedly 'count' five tanks and then find another target several km's away seems like quite an impressive feat to me. Sounds like it was the escalating cost IMHO.
 

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The way I read it, a group of six tanks was perceived by the WASP as a group of five. Five possibly being WASP's limit to the number of elements it could discern in a single group.

Number of elements perceived inside the group stops at five, a sixth element is found outside the group - sixth element subsequently receives target status.

That amounts to hitting something else than what you intended to hit. That's often A Bad Thing.
 

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Source? I can't really follow, if it couldn't 'count' the sixth tank after counting five why did it try to attack another target? In effect isn't that the six tank or more precisely it identified the 'sixth' target'? If it couldn't count 'six' wouldn't it be programmed to abort?

But if this happened and given this is 1982 or over 30 years ago doesn't sound that the testing was that bad. In fact in the second test to supposedly 'count' five tanks and then find another target several km's away seems like quite an impressive feat to me. Sounds like it was the escalating cost IMHO.
I read this in The Pentagon Wars (the non-fiction book, not the fictionalized comedy movie). I would give you the author's own sources right out of the book, but I lent it to someone recently. It'll have to wait until I get the book back, because this is extremely obscure information.
 

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Blacktail said:
In a later test of the WASP at Eglin AFB, it once again failed to attack the 6th tank in the formation --- but this time it locked onto a CIVILIAN CAR on a nearby freeway! Fortunately, the WASP ran out of fuel and crashed long before it got to the freeway.
Anything is possible but my understanding of MMW weapons was range was primarily a limitation of seeker resolution (~8km) not the rocket motor. Especially since they are fired from an air vehicle meaning they would have quite extensive range on a burn and glide trajectory (~20km).
 

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That a MMW seeker would lock a car is not surprising at all...

1. The RCS of a car is actually very high. A T-72 is about 13 dbsm in the Ka band, a car is about 20 dbsm. The internal corners of a cars roof are great scatterers.
2. MMW radar tries to distinguish between targets based on their range profiles (strength of return v. range with multiple range cells on target). But this is an extremely difficult way to recognize targets, range profiles of the same target are different from every angle (azimuth and elevation) and because they do not resolve the target in cross range any other scatterers in the same range cell can corrupt the profile. Stationary targets are particularly hard to recognize because doppler filtering can not be used to suppress clutter.

The seeker likely wouldn't be programmed with the range profiles of random cars either, so the combination of a large RCS and movement would make a car on the freeway appear to be a perfect target. Assuming this is what actually happened.
 

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Blacktail said:
Source? I can't really follow, if it couldn't 'count' the sixth tank after counting five why did it try to attack another target? In effect isn't that the six tank or more precisely it identified the 'sixth' target'? If it couldn't count 'six' wouldn't it be programmed to abort?

But if this happened and given this is 1982 or over 30 years ago doesn't sound that the testing was that bad. In fact in the second test to supposedly 'count' five tanks and then find another target several km's away seems like quite an impressive feat to me. Sounds like it was the escalating cost IMHO.
I read this in The Pentagon Wars (the non-fiction book, not the fictionalized comedy movie). I would give you the author's own sources right out of the book, but I lent it to someone recently. It'll have to wait until I get the book back, because this is extremely obscure information.
I had a quick look in my copy of 'The Pentagon Wars'.
The story is told in the footnotes of Burton's book, pages 276-277: after being launched from an F-4, the Wasp locked on to a first column of six tanks, but counted only five tanks. It then locked on to a second group of vehicles, where, again, it failed to count to six. It then turned...
...and headed for a column of automobiles travelling along the civilian highway just outside the boundaries of the test range. Fortunately, the missile ran out of fuel and crashed before it could fly off the test range. Otherwise, some unsuspecting civilian motorist sitting sixth in line at the stoplight would have had a terrible day.
Unfortunately Burton doesn't provide a source.
 

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Does anyone have drawings of the proposed pod preferably with dimensions?
 

Blacktail

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GTX said:
Does anyone have drawings of the proposed pod preferably with dimensions?
The only images of the WASP that I know of are found here;
http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/m-124.html
 

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That pic was from this book:


(and there were two sizes of pods. The one shown at your link, and a smaller one with five in each row.)
 

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bobbymike said:
Blacktail said:
I know that this is an old topic, but I know why the AGM-124 WASP was never adopted.

The Hughes AGM-124 WASP was one of the weapons commonly advertised in the 1980s as "brilliant" missiles. "Brilliant" meaning, it was supposed to find and destroy a specific target, out of several. The WASP was intended to be a tiny munition that could be carried in large numbers aboard a Fighter, Affacker, or Striker, allowing them to attack a large number of targets simultaneously from a standoff distance.

On the very first demonstration of the WASP, however, it proved less-than-brilliant. It was programmed to fly down a column of 6 target tanks on the Eglin AFB target range, and attack only the 6th tank... but it proved unable to count more than 5 targets in one pass, and went after a vehicle on a different part of the range.

In a later test of the WASP at Eglin AFB, it once again failed to attack the 6th tank in the formation --- but this time it locked onto a CIVILIAN CAR on a nearby freeway! Fortunately, the WASP ran out of fuel and crashed long before it got to the freeway.

Not only did the WASP prove less than "brilliant" time and again, but it's promised $25000 Unit Cost had been exceeded several times over. Fortunately, it was cancelled once all this was realized.
Source? I can't really follow, if it couldn't 'count' the sixth tank after counting five why did it try to attack another target? In effect isn't that the six tank or more precisely it identified the 'sixth' target'? If it couldn't count 'six' wouldn't it be programmed to abort?

But if this happened and given this is 1982 or over 30 years ago doesn't sound that the testing was that bad. In fact in the second test to supposedly 'count' five tanks and then find another target several km's away seems like quite an impressive feat to me. Sounds like it was the escalating cost IMHO.

First, you have to understand the nature of the scenario. 'Forward Defense' against 30-40,000 AFV that could come from any of the Asian/Arab TVDs at 60-70mph compared to 30 knots for a RORO boat was just never going to be practical as a strategy to save NATO. It would get small units on wide frontages steamrolled, popped by nukes or simply bypassed.

Think Bagration II.

MMW works like IR (all objects emit) with a mass refractant index added in so that the 'color' of the milliwave return is a fraction of the mass index (hard metal = more MMW emission) with the shadowing effect it has on surrounding ground as an aspect and edge indication haloing the target.

If a target is hit, it blows up and the jet changes the MMW background contrast in a highly visible way, after which the target regresses to a lower mass:energy state and can be hulked out of the shoot list. While the FI article doesn't mention it, I distinctly remember that the AGM-124 had a kill-howl datalink that allowed the missiles to porpoise as they approached the target area and when one found a target, it locked on, signaled the commit to the other missiles and then dove in. ALL OTHER WEAPONS were constrained to honor this shot call exclusivity until a given window for signalling warhead detonation had passed and they could again begin their own terminal attack profiles. 1-2-3-4-5 etc.

Done this way and now it's the bruiser GTR/MRR that is in trouble as vehicles rapidly fall out of the swarms line of sight.

The vehicle for executing this death ball progression being a looping figure eight autopilot and a blip motor which reenergized the weapon trajectory mechanic.

If one of 50 vehicles in an OMG breakout force blows and you can TELL it has done so, sufficient to reject and target skip to the next T-72 in line, then it doesn't really matter what the others are doing, you just 'keep shooting what moves'.

If you want a good discriminator so that you can sector multiple missiles to a straight-in impact, use an MMW pencil beam illuminator and tell the missile, 'this is your index line, follow it' (or bias left/right from it). If all's you're looking for as 3-5km designation range, which is itself 'highly optimistic' for most of Germany in winter as a function of HUD sighting, uou could put such an illuminator in something as small as an AN/AAS-35 Pave Penny container and provided you could stand breaching line of sight, you point the weapon at the target clusters as dictated by battlefield smoke or scout 9-line or even ATHS orientation signaling.

And let fly.

The real problem inherent to the Wasp is two fold and obvious if you can read between the lines of the text:


>>
Ahead of the warhead is the electronics package with analogue and digital processing circuitry and the Wasp digital data processor printed on double sided printed circuit boards

...

The WASP data processor is claimed by Hughes to be the world's fastest airborne missile computer. Software imbedded in the processor provides guidance timing and control, missile mode control, flight control and radar signal processing.

...

Under a Sabreliner containing more than 2,000lbs of data analysis equipment.
>>

To the jaded eye of one who was actually hunting Mastodons with a stick in this period and thought a 6502 on an Apple II+ was just /so cool/, I can tell you that Motorola and TI weren't pushing anything out the door for the military that Breville would feel confident in putting in a toaster today.

The high heat loads tells you it's a hybrid device because Pave Pillar was just getting going and MMICs were years away. And the 'imbedded software' is engineering speak for RISC chips doing a VERY few things very well, very quickly, on direct machine code execute. Which is to say you cannot tweak and compile through a simulator but have to run massive hardware-in-loop drills for every mod you make.

What a lot of people don't understand is exactly how much we cheated back in those days. When you talk about this kind of configuration in relation to direct command over the flight and trajectory controls, you are essentially admitting that you cannot push enough numbers through the buffer and/or the coarse data coming out of the D/A converters is very fuzzy and dependent common signature thumbprints from common angles that the simplistic processor can average to DIRECTLY (time/phase lag input on the Cartesian surface deflection logic) input maneuvers that will 'center the dot' before changes in the target signature caused by missile/seeker orientation takes buries the spike back in the clutter.

When it takes 2,000lbs of gear to characterize a seeker scene covered by a 6" diameter Cassegrain antenna with maybe 20`of sweep, you are talking _very_ primitive computing on both the signal and data processing sides of the filter/decision gate.

Couple this to the reality that MMW _leaks everywhere_, due to the much shorter wavelength operating frequencies and much higher PRFs possible, posing an RF self-interference as SNr problem and you have a real beach of many stones to walk across in getting a reliable seeker waveform from which you can pull enough target data to get reliable, all aspect, tracking.

Which brings us to the other problem. About this time, the Russians began investing a fair bit into first Drozhd and then Arena APS systems before settling on enhanced ERA. 'Contact' (single charge HEAT) hits from high grazing angles, well out of clutter, is just not the way to go with a subsonic round that costs twice what period TOW did. Of course, this didn't have to relate to WASP so much as Hellfire but whichever the Soviet intent was, Arena in particular, using much the same technology as WASP in a _non expendable format_ would make fairly short work of subsonic mini-Mavericks. You could almost say that the defensive grenadelet trajectory is optimized for the smart munition dive angle.

The WASP pod was about 12.5ft long and 32" in diameter. It looked like a big LAU-3 with scalloped notches cut out of the non-separating aerodynamic cover to expose the missile tubes which were themselves to be protected by red frangible covers.
 

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WASP drawings from Aviation Week & Space Technology May 10 1982 p.63
 

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