Laser-guided rockets on pick-up vehicles for the Ukrainian Special Forces

From Savvas D. Vlassis

In the new package of military equipment that Berlin decided to give to the embattled Ukraine, 20 70 mm rocket launchers on light vehicles (pick ups), accompanied by a stockpile of 2,000 rockets and laser target designators, are included.

This is most likely the Fieldranger armament base, carrying two launchers – baskets of 7 70 mm rockets, which Rheinmetall has installed on the Mission Master SP (Silent Partner) autonomous unmanned vehicle. The vehicle was certified last April, using Thales Belgium’s FZ275 LGR 70mm laser-guided rockets, and it now appears that a decision has been made to rapidly develop a low-cost derivative to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs. The supply of vehicles, rockets and weapons base was financed by German credits under the relevant chapter on “creating security capacity” of Ukraine.

This particular rocket is considered the lightest (12.7 kg) and with the longest range, among the corresponding 70 mm rockets in the category. Approximately 180 cm long, it carries a 4.1 kg warhead and the range is determined to be between 1,500 – 7,000 meters, with a circle error accuracy of less than 1 meter at a distance of 6,000 meters, against fixed or moving targets up to 60 h.a.p.m. . goals. However, recently, at EUROSATORY 2022, Thales Belgium announced ranges from 2,000 to 10,000 meters!

The concession by Germany of 20 vehicles (obviously civilian) with this weapon, “photographs” the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces as an operational user. The concept of using light vehicles with “straight-track” precision weapons to engage targets at long range is a key concept that has been gaining ground in recent years. Vehicles, even civilian ones, provide increased tactical agility while weapons such as laser-guided rockets allow precision strikes on a variety of targets from safe distances. Since the mounted element had armour, it would also be more suitable for tactical reconnaissance missions.

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The fact that the vehicle and rocket package also mentions laser target designators means that these will be carried on the vehicles, allowing the element to operate autonomously. However, it will be possible to engage targets marked by other beacons, either man-portable by partner forward patrols, or aerial platforms such as UAVs.

The concession of 20 light vehicles armed with precision rockets is part of a series of weapons that other countries have also ceded to supply Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces. The US has announced, among other things, the granting of more than 700 deadly Switchblade-type drones, Puma-type mini UAVs and HMMWV high-speed vehicles.

The purpose of these targeted procurements is to increase the operational capabilities of the Special Operations Forces of the Ukrainian Army. American and British sources report that these have demonstrated the ability to operate at great depth behind Russian lines. But this sounds more like an intention than a reality today. In the early phase of the war, this might have been done, but today the confrontation line, due to the dense aerial surveillance by drones and UAVs, is not “porous” to favor infiltrations by fast-moving patrols. In any case, the effort to upgrade capabilities serves an overall policy and the specific weapons are deemed useful, through the existing process of consultation between the West and the Ukrainians to determine the necessary weapons systems. With the new means and materials, the Special Operations Forces will be able to support operations more effectively, especially in the case of counter-offensive maneuvers.

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To this day, there is widespread use of such civilian-spec vehicles, which are either conscripted or provided by foreign countries as aid and are used to transport elements of heavy machine guns, anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles. Recently, a home-made version appeared, with the adaptation to the undercarriage of such a vehicle, a launcher of 16 S-8 80 mm rockets. These rockets are unguided and the accuracy of fire is considered limited, so it is sought to compensate by rapidly launching the entire charge.

The use of laser-guided rockets by Special Operations Forces allows the destruction of point targets with economy of ammunition. The allocation of 2,000 FZ275 LGR rockets means that each of the mounted elements allocated by Germany has a stockpile of 100 rockets.

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