Sunday, 9 September 2012

Laser-Guided Sidewinder (LaGS) for Air-to-Surface Missions of Combat Aircraft

Latest market surveys indicate an interest of different air forces in a light air-to-surface guided weapon for pin-point engagement of small, lightly armoured targets. Missions of this type have previously been relying on weapons originally developed and procured for precise engagement of large, hardened targets. Engagement of smaller mobile targets requires new armament tailored to specific use. It aims at combining reduced detonation (small warhead) with maximum target precision (pin-point engagement) and utmost avoidance of collateral damage.

The Laser-Guided Sidewinder, currently being developed by Diehl Defence, is an adapted air-to-air guided missile for air-to-surface missions on the basis of the AIM-9L-family. LaGS permits air-to-surface missions with a worldwide proven guided missile without having to shoulder considerable expenses for re-integration in the combat aircraft. The infrared seeker in the original missile´s guidance and control section is replaced by a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker. The SAL seeker concept envisages marking the target with a Laser Designator. The SAL seeker directs the missile autonomously into the laser-lighted target.

Since the great majority of today´s air-to-air scenarios are covered by advanced missiles such as IRIS-T, adaptation and employment of the AIM-9L missile family, having already been procured, offers operational advantages and is practical in terms of logistics. LaGS` accuracy enables aircraft crews engagement of lightly armoured surface targets in the air-to-surface, Close Air Support (CAS) and Urban Close Air Support (UCAS) roles. Target engagement is initiated without delay and conducted beyond the adversary´s counter-fire range.

The planned modification of the available guided missile will generate a new qualified product in the shortest possible time. The missile´s measurements, weight, center of gravity and inertia remain unaltered; nor are the interfaces to the launcher and aircraft subject to change. LaGS will offer full compatibility with the Sidewinder weapon station. Possessing this design, the available air-to-air weapon stations can be employed without platform alterations both for air-to-air and air-to-surface missions with the modified Sidewinder. As air-to-surface precision armament with a 20-year life cycle, LaGS offers combat aircraft enhanced mission options.

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