Monday, April 11, 2011

Revenge of the Cold War relics. Again

It is not the first time that a "Cold War relic" proves to be actually an effective, relevant and needed weapon system, but this is on the headlines right now, and it is worth pointing it out, because the Brimstone missile has been more than once criticized as a "no longer needed" weapon. Designed to take over the hordes of URSS tanks in Central Europe (and delivered with massive delay, admittedly) this missile has been of course one of the victims of the "Relic" tagging. 

Brimstone Dual Mode (as shown, with combined radar/laser guidance) is proving its value in Afghanistan and now it is the great hero of Operation Ellamy.

Now it is proving itself as the right weapon at the right place as Tornado GR4s fly over Libya, reportedly destroying 23 tanks, armored vehicles and SAM missile launchers in just 3 days, counting from last Friday.   

Unsurprising. Who reads Think Defence's blog knows that i had been foreseeing this long before the Libya campaign was started. 

And Sentinel R1, which also has its roots reaching into Cold War times, when the Army issued a requirement for a system capable to spy and track enemy movements on the ground, is proving its worth as well. 
It is so "unnecessary" that it started working in Afghanistan well before it entered officially into service, and now it is one of the most precious UK contributions to Libya as well. 
The Sentinel R1 represents a capability unique in Europe and, to a degree, it is a worldwide excellence, with only the US fleet of Joint Stars planes capable to do more.
And we could think of the Type 22 frigates as well, reportedly admired for the performance of HMS Cumberland, so much that there are calls to retain for some more time at least Cumberland and Cornwall. 

HMS Cumberland has been invaluable in the evacuation effort, and in the period spent off Libya's coast she's been impressing for her capability in command, controll and communications, leading to calls for giving her a longer life.

Can politicians truly be the only guys in the world who truly do not realize that certain affirmations are total bonkers? 

May be. But i suspect that they say idiocies knowing full well that they are saying them. 
They've got cuts to justify, after all. And they are short of real arguments. 

They must do with what they can...

As always, i want to exploit this occasion to express my wish for a safe and speedy return home of all members of the United Kingdom's and allied armed forces engaged in operations all around the world, and i want to wish good luck to the Commandos as they take over the command of operations in Afghanistan. 

To the 16 Air Assault brigade, well done lads! 

To the Commandos, give 'em hell, and come back safe!

And i also want to express my sadness and my deepest respect for the pain of the family of Lieutenant Commander Molyneux, 36, fatally shot on board HMS Astute. I know it won't help you, but my thoughts are with you at this tragic time.


  1. Gabriele - to be honest it was the "dual mode" bit that made Brimstone prized in Afghanistan, and I doubt it's being let loose in "fire and forget" MMW radar guided mode in Libya either. A small laser guided round, with a smaller warhead and thus less capacity for unwanted "collateral" damage than the Maverick is just the ticket for so called COIN. However I don't see Tornado's popping over a hill to let loose 12 at a time in full on "cold war relic" mode any time soon !

    Indeed incredibly sad ref the Lt Cdr,especially if it was murder :-(

  2. Hi Jed

    The photos i have of Tornado GR4 going into mission so far over Libya appear to always go with a Litening targeting pod, a triple Dual Mode Brimstone rail and a single Paveway IV bomb.

    As to using the MMW radar mode, that will happen as soon as the UK is called out to face armoured formations.
    Had it been available in 2003 during the battlas between Chally and iraqi T-72, it would have been a battle-winner.

    The use of a weapon depends always on what you are facing, and in which conditions.
    And anyway, the laser guidance is more of an added safety than anything: the MMW seeker is capable to generate radar-images of the targets so accurate that the missile can be programmed, pre-mission, to target a specific "image". For example, you could have a part of the Brimstones programmed to seek the radar shape of the ZSU-23 Shilka anti-air gun accompanying the tanks to take it out first and so along.

    Even in MMW mode, the chances of the Brimstone going wild and attacking a civilian car are next to none.

    "For low collateral damage control the missile can be programmed not to initiate target search until it has passed a given point. This allows Brimstone to safely overfly friendly forces. Similarly, Brimstone can be programmed to cease target search beyond a determined engagement area or to accept a target only within a specified area.

    Embedded algorithms allow Brimstone to attack only valid targets within a specified area. The high selectivity allows Brimstone to target armoured vehicles and ignore other fixed or moving assets, such as houses or cars. It is possible to program the missile to engage targets with a specific radar signature, for example patrol boats."


    The tank has not been uninvented, and won't be uninvented anytime soon. Tanks are no Cold-War relics, and anti-tank weaponry is also not a relic.

    And it is indeed horrible what happened to Molyneux, and to his four sons and daughters left without their daddy.

    Sad for Astute, too. Not the luckiest of vessels... not to be rude or ironical or evil at all against Camilla, but perhaps it is better if the Duchess of Cornwall does not names other boats XD


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