FLAADS, Type 23, Type 26 and Rapier
Known as CAMM (Common Anti-air Modular Missile), the new missile is the effector used by the Future Local Area Air Defence System (Marittime) and FLAADS (Land) both. The missile is the same, a derivative of ASRAAM, but with many differences. The most evident ones are the Cold Launch feature, and the fact that CAMM is not an IR imaging missile, but a Radar guided, fire and forget missile.
CAMM is also a bit bigger, being 3.2 meters long and 99 kg at launch.
FLAADS(M) is the first variant planned to hit service. It is going to replace the Sea Wolf MK2 at least on some of the Type 23 frigates, and it will equip from build the new Type 26s. The replacement of Sea Wolf will give Type 23 a much enhanced punch and protection against aerial threats, and will allow the system to be validated and used operatively before the Type 26 starts being built, in order to inform eventual improvements and changes to the new ships, and thus helping to keep risks to a minimum.
CAMM is being developed by MBDA under the “Team Complex Weapons” agreement with the MOD, with the aim of replacing Sea Wolf, Rapier, and inform future upgrades to, or even replace, ASRAAM in future, making it the first true tri-service missile program. Significantly, this means that firing trials of CAMM for the Marittime system, are happening from the FLAADS(Land) platform truck prototype, allowing both configurations to evolve and develop at once, minimizing costs. On land and sea, FLAADS uses the same missile and the same all-weather canister.
The greatest features of CAMM can be summarized as:
- No need for expensive Vertical Launch complexes such as MK41 or Sylver. While it is often noted that 4 CAMM canisters can be fitted in a Sylver/MK41 cell (dimensions are standard, with only the length of the cell being different, depending on the missile), CAMM is actually fired from its own container-canister, ejected cold, thus with no exhaust, heat and flames to manage. This means that the Land CAMM can be fired from a truck flatbed without melting it. This also means that CAMM is easily installed pretty much anywhere: you could bolt the canisters on HMS Albion’s flight deck if you wanted, and the wiring would be the only problem.
A conventional missile, such as Aster, needs a very specific silo, and a VLS system installed in it, to manage the stress, heat and shock of the Hot Launch.
The MK41 or Sylver launchers are a fixed, rather expensive and complex kind of structure that needs to be fitted in a specially designed missile silo, and both are “racks” in which container-launch canisters containing the missiles are vertically lowered. The VLS contains the electronics that allow the ship to dialogue with the missile inside its container, and they include the Venting system that makes launch possible.
|A simplified graphic that shows the basic working of a VLS system, like the MK41 or the european Sylver, highlighting the big issue of the rocket ignition and related heat, flames, shock and exhaust.|
|A Tomahawk fired from a MK41 cell on a US warship. The "hell" of flames venting through the middle duct of the MK41 VLS is very evident, as shown in the graphic above.|
|The Missile System of a modern warship: from Left to Right, the MK41 VLS structure, in a 8-cell module, a sealed canister-launcher, and the missile contained within it.|
|A canister-launcher is lowered into a MK41 cell to reload the warship's arsenal.|
CAMM does not need such VLS structure, although it can of course be quad-packed inside existing Sylver cells on Type 45, for example, as a cheaper solution for short-range engagements than Aster 15. While now a Type 45 is expected to have a missile load of 32 Aster 30 and 16 Aster 15 in its 48 cells, tomorrow the same ship might end up carrying 40 Aster 30 and 32 CAMM in the same number of cells!
On Land, Cold Launch has the additional advantage of making the truck-launcher much harder to spot.
- No need for dedicate radar tracking systems. CAMM is radar agnostic, and can dialogue with any 2D or 3D radar installed on the ship to get the initial data about the position of the target. Once launched, CAMM pursues the target with initial indications from the ship’s radar, before its seeker acquires the contact, and makes the missile wholly independent and fire and forget.
This is very different from other SAM systems, Sea Wolf obviously included, which come with their own dedicate suite of radars and target-tracking sensors. The Sea Wolf is guided from ship-mounted sensors for the whole engagement, and is not fire and forget. Its original ship-mounted tracker system weighted some 13.5 tons below deck, with the latest Type 911tracker system still taking some 5 tons, with two of them on each ship.
|In the red circle, the Type 911 Sea Wolf tracking system on HMS Sutherland.|
Type 23 and Type 26 fitted with CAMM will only need their ARTISAN 3D (Type 998 for the Royal Navy) radar, reducing the amount of sensors to maintain and support, and keeping complexity and costs down.
On land, CAMM will get targeting data from a variety of radars, including Giraffe ABM, via LEAPP network, through a secure, MBDA-developed data link. The FLAADS Command and Control (C2) system features greater than 75% commonality of Sea Viper C2 software, and also the new Radar Seeker mounted on the missile made as great a reuse of existing technology as possible.
MBDA said that it would be possible to give CAMM an anti-surface attack capability, but the MOD was very clear that this is a welcome expansion in capability only if it comes with no extra cost, and it is subsequently likely that, at least at first, such capability won’t be available.
- Seperation of booster from the missile is now removed, a complication that adds to potential failures and increases development costs.
- The gas 'gun' (piston) that launches the missile exerts less G-forces on the missile or at least can be tailored to do so.
- The soft launch system is more compact than a booster and requires no exhaust ducting, so length volume and weight of the silo is obviously reduced. The silo is also easier to 'seal' hermeticaly, having just one large opening, instead of a second for the exhaust. Packed in a neutral atmosphere the missile does not deteriorate as fast as when exposed to the air, let alone the sea air (laden with salt water).
- If the missile engine misfires the missile will still get out of the tube and be off the ship before anything blows up. This is the main reason why Russians adopted soft launch methods long ago: they also use to adopt slightly-tilted launch tubes, to make sure that an eventually misfired missile falls into the water and not on the deck.
CAMM is a quite impressive sight at launch: the missile is ejected cold from its cell, thanks to a piston in the canister, and high-pressure air. It “jumps” to some 100 feet of height, and a series of small guidance jets placed on the tail of the missile turn the weapon in the direction of the incoming target before the main rocket engine ignites at all, ensuring that all the energy of the rocket is used to gain speed and intercept the target.
The entry into service of FLAADS(M) is expected to be 2016, according to a modifications made during the definition of the MOD Planning Round 2009: back then, the MOD decided to cut the number of Type 23 frigates getting the Sea Wolf Mid Life Upgrade by two hulls, with these planned to get directly the CAMM missile replacement during refit, around the middle of this decade.
It is not clear which ships these will be: the Type 23 Mid Life upgrade programme is ongoing, and it involves year long refits for the ships, with a cost variable from 20 to 30 million pounds, depending on the condition of the vessel. HMS Northumberland came out of refit in 2005, with the new Intersleek 700 silicone paint applied to its hull for the first time, the MK8 MOD 1 upgraded main gun, the Thales 2087 Low Frequency Active sonar, S2070 anti-torpedo defence system, 30 mm light guns, and new Merlin-handling flight deck equipment.
HMS Iron Duke was the first, in 2007, to get the new CBRN filter system that was subsequently mandated for the whole fleet. She also got a new transom flap to improve fuel economy. In 2008, HMS St Albans came out of her own refit, with her set of upgrades, including the sonar 2087.
In 2008, Sutherland came out of her own refit, having received the first ship set of upgraded, Bloc 2 Sea Wolf missiles.
Next in was HMS Montrose with the first fitting of the new DNA(2) command system, followed by HMS Argyll, which came out of refit in September 2010.
December 2010 saw HMS Kent enter refit: she can be seen these days in Dock No2 in Rosyth, right beside the dock where HMS Queen Elizabeth is being assembled. She is getting the sonar 2087, MK8 Mod 1 main gun, 30 mm guns, DNA(2) system and all other improvements as part of the refit. She is scheduled to exit dock this November.
In 2008 the contract for ARTISAN 3D radar was signed, and the whole Type 23 fleet is scheduled to get it by 2015, along with Albion, Bulwark and Ocean.
Five Type 23 frigates, HM Ships Montrose, Monmouth, Iron Duke, Lancaster and Argyll are not scheduled to receive Sonar 2087. These ships will be employed across the normal range of standing strategic, home and overseas commitments. These include Fleet Ready Escort duties around home waters, operational deployments to the Gulf and Arabian Sea, and standing tasks in the South Atlantic (APT(S)), and within NATO's Standing Maritime Group in the Mediterranean (SNMG2). They will also continue to contribute to the UK's Maritime Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF) held at high readiness for contingent operations, and deploy on pre-planned activities as JRRF elements within a Task Group, but their ASW kit will not be as advanced as that of their 8 more-specialized sisters. Not casually, 8 ASW + 5 GP is the planned structure of the Type 26 fleet as well, with the ASW ships probably starting their active service with S2087 kits migrated from the earlier Type 23s, until a new sonar system is eventually adopted.
It had been earlier planned that 12 sea-going ship sets of sonar 2087 would be acquired, plus two shore-based training systems, but this proved too expensive to fit in the budget.
By 2010, six ship sets had been installed, with the last two expected by 2013.
The Lynx Mk 8 helicopter is operated by the frigates Argyll, Montrose, Richmond, Iron Duke, Kent, Portland, Somerset.
HMS Lancaster, Monmouth, Westminster, Northumberland, St Albans and Sutherland operate the Merlin and have been fitted with the Prism flight deck handling equipment during their refits. Other Type 23s are also capable of working with the Merlin and have been getting the new deck handling equipment, but routinely use Lynx MK 8. Merlins for the Type 23 frigates come from Squadron 829 NAS, which has 8 helicopters, roughly 130 men, and provides six Small Ship Flights.
824 NAS has 8 helicopters and works as OCU for the fleet, 814 and 820 provide large ship flights for embarkation on big units such as now retired Ark Royal, but also RFA ships such as Argus or the Forts.
Out of service dates for the Type 23s go from 2023 to 2036, so there is still plenty of work left for the Dukes, and they likely will all get, in time, the FLAADS(M) missile system, but saying in which order, and in which date, well, that’s very complex!
Anyway, CAMM promises to be a great step forwards, and it will expand the targeting envelope, and the “bubble” of protection: current Sea Wolf has a range of perhaps 13 kilometers or less. CAMM extends this in near Aster 15 range, by reaching 25 km (against 30 for the Aster).
CAMM on land should enter service around 2018, if the process is not delayed due to financial constraints. On land, it will represent far more of a quantum leap than at sea: Rapier is a quite limited system, and CAMM is going to expand massively the range of what’s possible doing. The truck-mounted CAMM will have better battlefield mobility, but will in turn lose part of the strategic mobility of Rapier, which can be transported under slung from helicopters, for example.
Due to the nature of CAMM, an interesting, possible future development to remedy to this issue is the adoption of a palletized launcher, NLOS-style. As far as I’m aware, MBDA has not proposed anything of this kind, at least so far, even if an earlier concept art, interestingly, showed a flatbed truck carrying a multiple-cell pallet of missile canisters, in an installation very ship-like.
Obviously, the issue with such a fixed, vertical assembly for launch cells is that their height would give the truck a very high silhouette, with related troubles, so that a collapsible assembly for the launch tubes is more than desirable.
However, a pallet of missiles, comprising a built-in electronics cell with the MBDA data link and a Data radio Bowman compatible to be networked with the LEAPP network of the Royal Artillery, could be landed from an helicopter pretty much anywhere, and operated remotely, receiving targeting data from any available outside radar source via the MBDA data link. Very possibly, the very same towed, air-portable search radar currently used as part of the Rapier FSC batteries. They could then be loaded onto a flatbed truck, secured to the cargo bed, and transported / used from such vehicle base.
This would make it much easier to deploy a FLAADS(L) battery even in the very first moments of an amphibious assault, such as a remake of San Carlos. Helicopters could bring ashore a radar and several pallets of missile-cells, and the battery would rapidly be able to provide a bubble of protection.
Such hypothetical pallet installation would probably use a 1.4 meter x 1.4 meter base, which should be able to take 16 vertical canisters, of which one or more would be replaced by a fixed housing containing the radio, batteries for long endurance, and a foldable-mast antenna, much like the American NLOS-LS.
Unlike the NLOS, the pallet would be quite high, though: well over 3, perhaps close to 4 meters. Still a measure that would fit the cargo bays of C17 and A400, making the pallet air-portable and very possibly parachute capable. The weight of a canister, besides, overcomes the 100 kg, probably by a good bit, differently from a much smaller NLOS canister that could be moved by two soldiers. The whole pallet might weight around 2 tons, a weight still easily manageable: too heavy for a Lynx or Wildcat, but an easy load for a Puma, Merlin and of course Chinook.
It would be a way to have a mobility that even the Rapier did never have.
CAMM is without doubt one of the most interesting programmes of the last few years. It might not be excessively revolutionary, but it brings forwards changes and innovations that promise to give it a leading edge that, reportedly, has already awakened interest in several possible export customers. For the Royal Navy and the Army, the CAMM represents a much needed future improvement, and what is reassuring about this programme is that, so far, everything has been working nicely, with no problems and no delays.
The hope, of course, is to see the success story continuing. The curiosity, is for seeing if and when the advantages of the soft, cold launch will be fully exploited, by designing something, like my proposed pallet-installation, that can be easily deployed at will whenever it is needed.