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back to article US Army portaloo-full-of-missiles project for the chop

A US military weapons programme which might have made large parts of the Army obsolete has been cancelled. Officials said that the Netfires/Non Line Of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS, aka "rockets in a box") suffered from test failures and escalating costs. A fifteen-missile NLOS-LS container unit The Portaloo of death: Dead …

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Grenade

Maybe they just didn't like the name.

Even "Portaloo of Death" has a better ring to it that "Rockets in a box"

Maybe they should go with "Death in a crate" or "TNT by TNT"

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"Who wants to be colonel of a load of boxes?"

Probably right. The old guard not wanting to lose their big stompy toys for a load of little boxes.

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Anonymous Coward

Where is BAE in this?

How long before the MOD announces a vast amount of money for BAE to look into the possibility of inventing our own or something similar, or has it already?

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Grenade

Well if nobody wants them now...

I'll have them - they'd look right grand in my back garden and might deter those kids next door from luzzing their rugby ball over my fence again (I can laser spot them from the bedroom window).

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Black Helicopters

Club-K?

It's a slightly different form-factor, but it seems the Russians managed to achieve a similar thing with their Club-K missile-in-a-shipping-container system that was in all the papers this week. (Google/Yahoo/MSN it)

Quite a neat coincidence that there's a sudden burst of media stories in on the Russian missile system right about the time that people start talking of chopping the US-based system.

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It's a slightly different form-factor....

Just slightly. It's a whole cargo container to accommodate four missiles.

See here as the evil blue forces attempt to crush the peace loving reds. The blues, you will notice use M1 Abrams, F18's and C5 Galaxy Transports. See if Hugo twitters about it. I'm sure he'll love it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqwMzQiXlK0&feature=player_embedded

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FAIL

How much??

$50,000+ for a *single* shell? Holy...

How can anyone seriously justify spending that amount of money for a glorified stick of dynamite?

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Joke

re:How much??

because good pitching arms are even more expensive per use, as demonstrated by the american baseball industry's pay scales.

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Anonymous Coward

Cheap at twice the price.

Ever wonder what a patriot missile costs? Then add the whole rigamole of extra stuff you also need to make the darn thing go. And if you're unlucky it'll turn right back and go asplode in your own compound.

Or look what a tomahawk costs. Or... well, anything else in drab green^W^Wdesert tan.

If you want to outfit your defence services on the cheap, shop around. Leopard 2 tanks, russian fighters, singaporean small arms, what have you. Add upgrades to taste, and bob's yer uncle. Especially the americans have the nasty habit of massively over-engineering their gear, in fact they have a whole industry founded on the premise and it's gotten so big they can't get rid of it. And europe is too protectionist to buy objectively good stuff. But that doesn't mean you can't. Given a couple billions you could buy entire russian factories and crank out good sturdy squaddie proofed gear by the metric arseload.

Oh, that reminds me. The russians had a very scary and *working* "look and fire" system. Instead of expensive, heavy, camera-and-computer-y gear to calculate where you were looking, they just added a small wire loop in front of one eye, attached it to the helmet, and worked out the position of the helmet. Much easier, and still a vast improvement over having to turn the nose of the fighter aeroplane. I like that sort of solution, but you won't ever pry something like that out of a beltway bandit.

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Oh goodie, immobile artillery

Given the dynamic nature of combat, it's hard to see where an unattended box of missiles - which is difficult to reposition or recover - would fit in most of the time. In classic warfare, regular mobile artillery would be more useful precisely because it is mobile, as well as cheaper, albeit relatively manpower-intensive. In low-intensity warfare a Netfire-type system could be useful for teams operating out of small, static defensive positions - like forward operating bases - but would need to be transported in (by helicopter, parachutes wouldn't be precise enough) and also transported out (unless you want to leave it for the enemy or order it to self-destruct). Sure, you could stick it on a Humvee, but then it's just another crewed mobile missile launcher. It would also need the usual logistics of ammo supply (unless you want to drop a new one in every time you're low) at which point you need loaders and probably maintenance if it's going to be reliably available for any length of time. Mr Page's favourite reason for advocating radical change in military technology, i.e., to upset the hidebound brass, is a good one but not perhaps sufficient in itself. The only serious argument we've seen in its favour here is that the Israelis plan to use them and, at least until recently, we have assumed that they know what they're doing. But then again their entire country is a small, static defensive position...

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TITLE!

"""Sure, you could stick it on a Humvee, but then it's just another crewed mobile missile launcher."""

No you're supposed to use a Humvee to drop it off, then leave it alone. Plus I'm not sure that most mobile missile launchers are designed to do the surgical strike kinda thing.

""" It would also need the usual logistics of ammo supply (unless you want to drop a new one in every time you're low) at which point you need loaders and probably maintenance if it's going to be reliably available for any length of time."""

One of the design requirements is probably 'enough' ammo, and yeah, I suspect that you have to swap them out whenever they hit empty. If you really needed that much ammo, drop off 5 of them in a cluster, or spread them out a bit in a line.

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Laser dots

I have some questions regarding laser dot guidance. The article suggested that every soldier could have a laser projection device to allow them to 'illuminate' targets. How would that work then?

Lets say there are 20 soldiers with these devices, one of them 'networks' a portaloo missile to launch. That soldier illuminates a target, but another thinks that a different target is far more threatening and consequently 'lights' it up. Can the system determine which dot is the one to follow? Of course ten such missiles may be in the air at any given time, each 'looking' for a dot. Ten missiles, ten dots.

The other question I have is this. If you have laser targeted weapons deployed en mass, won't the enemy be a bit likely to know? If I was a target and I knew that laser dot guided weapons were likely to be fired at me. I'd have a whole series of laser pointers pointing at various lumps of concrete or surrounding hills or at my commanding officer or even at a few of my enemy installations. If these pointers operate at various frequencies to make the missiles selective, it surely can't be very difficult to produce devices that quickly tune across a large range of laser frequencies to confuse the incoming. Just a few simple questions about a very expensive and complex weapon.

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Grenade

Laser dots of doom

I'd assume that the 'laser pointers' actually emit a nice coded message, the same codes are associated with the request for the missile. The little red dot is a little red dot with a nice slow, heavily encrypted message playing over and over. The missile sees the dot, decodes the message, if the message says ACK, the missile homes in, if the message changes to NAK, the missile waves off. Your code is not the same as code as the guy next to you.

Hopefully the is also some way to avoid local reflections causing issues, as it would be a bitch to have someone kick up some dust and have the missile home in on your the laser pointer instead of the target :-|.. But I expect you could do that with two lasers and constructive interference at a focal point... but thats just a first guess.

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Gold badge
Happy

@Roger Jenkins

"The article suggested that every soldier could have a laser projection device to allow them to 'illuminate' targets. How would that work then?"

It might help if you stop thinking of it as a laser pointer (like the sort you get on key fobs for powerpoint presentations) and more like a TV or VCR remote control.

The beam is invisible and like your TV's remote is actually flashing. Last time I checked this remotes used a Pulse Position Modulation scheme with "Frame" pulses a set distance apart, usually longer than the other pulses. Other pulses varied in their position between the frame pulses to indicate various things. IR designators may use a similar system or go flashing the designators ID code directly but this would need some kind of correlation detector.

On this basis the other designators would be rejected as the missile box had not been sent their ID codes to look for. Alternatively different groups of rockets could be launched with each group set to a different code. Being really elaborate they would look for their primary designator code and if they found nothing (target already destroyed) switch to the backup search code.

The laser designator has a fairly precise passive optical system, frequency stable laser and possible network link to the artillery commander, unlike your TV remote. It's also a bit bigger and a *lot* more expensive.

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Laser guided munitions

Each designator has it's own security code/frequency, the missile would be attuned to Soldier X's designator, then only look for that laser dot.

You could jam them by using a smoke grenade with added reflective particles (chaff-like) perhaps.

I can see the idea behind the project, mobile artillery requires trained crew and more logistics, being able to drop a box into a nearby field from a non-militarised helicopter or cargo plane means less valuable assets being risked.

Consider an Apache, lots of cost for the vehicle itself, plus years of training for crew, has to be in the near vicinity of the fighting therefore at risk from shoulder-launched AA just to fire one or two missiles. (Added benefit of having cannon shells to use though)

Compared to having a civilian cargo chopper drop off a box 20 miles away and fire it's missiles. Further from combat, less risk, vehicle costs significantly less (pretty much cancelled out by the 200k cost admittedly).

I'd like to have 50 of those portaloos on my [hypothetical] aircraft carrier for my marines. Here's hoping they appear in a strategy game soon.

Article didn't mention if they would be fireable while on a moving humvee - that'd be interesting. Cheap MLRS.

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Bronze badge

Laser Dot Data

Should be simple enough to modulate the laser dot with a digital code. The soldier's request for a missile might say the equivalent of "Kill dot AA0153F0D". The missile would then seek a dot modulated with that code. The request (and the code) can easily be encrypted such that the enemy would be unable to generate one on the spur of the moment.

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Laser guidance

I'm not sure about this particular system, but some laser guidance systems encode a signal in the laser to be decoded by the missile. This would solve both issues; when issuing the command to fire the soldier's ID would be embedded, and the missile would look for that ID to target. Fake lasers would have to have the same ID embedded and encoded, in order to confuse the missile.

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An alternative

I can see the merits of this system, but if the cost is $200k a shot, then that is a bit much.

Not to mention the technical problems of dealing with leaving one of these things out in the open where anyone can stroll up and tamper with it.

It might make more sense to have a system where you can fire the laser-guided missiles from a Humvee on request from the infantry. I'd certainly look into such a system.

Of course, I don't have a trillion dollar defence budget to spend on jobs for the boys.

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Grenade

@Roger Jenkins

I'd assume that the 'laser pointers' actually emit a nice coded message, the same codes message that was associated with the request for the missile. The little red dot is a little red dot with a nice slow, heavily encrypted message playing over and over. The missile sees the dot, decodes the message, if the message says ACK, the missile homes in, if the message changes to NAK, the missile waves off.

Hopefully the is also some way to avoid local reflections causing issues, as it would be a bitch to have someone kick up some dust and have the missile home in on the laser pointer instead :-|

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when it's time to get serious, call the Koreans?

So will the South Koreans work out the bugs and field this in the next year? Just like they managed with their version of the failed XM-25, the Daewoo K-11?

Amazing what you can do when you clear out the anti-military "upper management" and the arse kissing politician-officers that endear themselves to such "management". You cut the corruption and still manage to get the best hardware for your troops in the world.

IIRC it was SK that also managed years ago to field a version of the M16/M4 that addressed all the infantry concerns with the gas impingment system with a reliable piston system too.

Then there's the SK "sentry bot". Excellent for border control.

As the Joker from "Batman": "where do they get such wonderful toys?" :)

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Artillery lends dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl.

Artillery is the only weapons system that works in all weather. It will never be fully replaced by something that can't fly and fire through rain, fog, smoke, cloud cover, etc.

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Cost per rocket

Enquiring minds want to know...

You have literally dozens of working, proven laser targetting systems already fitted to tons of ordnance. And rocket guidance is a solved problem (hell, it was a solved problem 70 years ago when old Werner went lobbing V2s at London). So how is it possible to get this wrong? I just don't get it.

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Hang on

How about retrofitting something like a C130 or somesuch with these? Naturally in such a way that they can be launched during flight. 30 mile range from a flying platform would be pretty ideal for low intensity warfare, especially on the occasions that the Taliban or whoever manage to create a defended position in some middle of nowhere area.

Also if you need more than 15 missiles then obviously you need something bigger.

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Grenade

I don't know, Yogi . . .

Even if it worked, I can see all sorts of ways for this thing to go wrong.

Against a technically-capable enemy, _our_ missiles in flight might become _their_ missiles in flight. (How well are the radio-issued flight commands encrypted? See previous debacle with U.S. un-encrypted video feeds from surveillance drones being intercepted by The Bad Guys.)

If the enemy captures one soldier's laser-designator unit, they have what they need to reverse-engineer the designator system.

And, there's the "free ammo lunchbox" aspect.

Enemy Combatant A: "Hey, what's this?"

Enemy Combatant B: "I dunno, but it says, 'U.S. Army' on it. We should steal it."

ECA: "It could be a Trojan Horse."

ECB: "You're right. We should steal it, bury it in a hole in the desert, and have our experts look at it there, rather than in the headquarters building."

. . .

U.S. Command Radio to the Missing Missile Box: "TK-23, why aren't you at your post?..."

Artillery pieces and artillery ammo can also be stolen and used against you by an enemy, but artillery pieces and ammo are usually accompanied by troops who can defend the position and/or move the equipment (depending on time- and enemy-force-constraints).

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Gold badge
Boffin

Question on laser designators.

Given how long these have been around I am *astonished* no one has hacked a "Designator detector" out of a telescope or CCTV with a suitable filter. Outside of the Sun I guess high intensity IR sources on the ground would be fairly rare (but I'm not an expert).

In daylight does ground cover reflect *that* much light at the relevant wave lengths that it would be blinded?

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Possible interesting use for the rocket motor

It seems to be a solid variable thrust type using a moving pintle.

An interesting project for some of these (now surplus) motors would be to fire some of them vertically with the pintle programmed to move to compensate for the surrounding air pressure changes. A solid propellant Altitude Compensating Nozzle test.

Just a thought.

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