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The Brimstone advanced anti-armour missile, developed by MBDA (formerly Alenia Marconi Systems) with Boeing as the primary subcontractor, entered a pre-production development programme in 1996. It began quantity production in late 2004.
Brimstone entered service with initial operational capability (IOC) on the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR.Mk4 aircraft in March 2005. Following a series of highly successful batch and service evaluation trials, full operational capability (FOC) was achieved in December 2005.
The system has been operationally deployed on Tornado GR4 aircraft in Iraq and in Afghanistan in 2009.
In May 2008, the UK RAF issued an urgent operational requirement for an upgrade to the dual-mode seeker, in order to give the missile system a man-in-the-loop capability to reduce the possibility of collateral damage.
The RAF placed an order with MBDA for additional Brimstone missiles in December 2010 and a further order in August 2011. MBDA delivered the 500th missile in February 2012.
MBDA received a £35m contract from the UK Ministry of Defence in November 2013 to supply Brimstone missiles for five years.
The Brimstone missile made its first firing against a fast in-shore attack craft in June 2012.
MBDA then demonstrated its precision low collateral capability from a MQ-9 Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft in January 2014, while the maritime capability was demonstrated against a fast in-shore attack craft was in March and April of the same year.
Ground and air launched anti-armour missile system
Brimstone can be ground or air-launched. Ground-launched missile firings have been successfully carried out at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, US.
The system can be fired from fixed or mobile ground launchers and was proposed for installation on the cancelled UK Tracer armoured scout and reconnaissance vehicle project.
When air launched, the missile meets and exceeds RAF requirements for a long-range anti-armour weapon, giving fighter aircraft the stand-off capability of destroying tanks and armoured assets deep behind enemy lines.
Brimstone is being integrated into the RAF fleet of Harrier GR7, GR9, Tornado GR4, GR4A and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, and will replace RBL 755 cluster bombs.
The small size and weight of the missile allows it to be integrated onto a wide range of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, including the L-159, Hawk and F/A-18.
Brimstone fire and forget missile system
Brimstone is a fully fire-and-forget system, requiring no further interaction from the launch platform or a post-launch target designator.
After leaving the launcher, the solid propellant rocket motor accelerates the missile to supersonic speed.
This motor has a short burn time and very low smoke emission, providing a very low visual and infrared signature, minimising the probability of detection by hostile sensors.
Radar seeker to operate in all weather conditions
Brimstone is equipped with a small, robust millimetric wave radar seeker operating at 94GHz, providing the capability to operate in all weather conditions, day and night. The seeker operates in low visibility and contaminated battlefield conditions, and is not susceptible to battlefield obscurants such as smoke, dust, flares and chaff.
The high-millimetric band seeker provides a high-resolution radar return image of the target, while the frequency gives a small beamwidth and therefore, very high angular resolution and reduces unwanted clutter for the given antenna size, which is limited by the diameter of the missile.
The millimetre wave radar enables wideband operation, facilitating the use of very sophisticated electronic countermeasures. Millimetric radar attenuates more rapidly than conventional centemetric radar in rain, sleet and fog, but its advantage is high penetration, in comparison to infrared sensor systems when countermeasures are employed.
Brimstone’s seeker incorporates a terrain avoidance capability, allowing it to cruise at a fixed height above ground.
A digital autopilot provides mid-course guidance and uses a high-accuracy digital inertial measurement system for high-precision navigation to locate targets at long range and in off-boresight operations.
The highly advanced guidance system on the launcher’s fire control unit and missile uses the target coordinates, course, speed, distance to target, missile trajectory data and data from other sensors to direct the controls and produce the optimum flight path to the target.
Multiple launch firing
In the event of a group of hostile armoured vehicles being identified on the battlefield, multiple Brimstone missiles can be fired in salvo. The missiles can fly out from a single platform and spread out to cover a large area.
Where hostile forces have in-line formations of armoured vehicles, Brimstone can be flown down the same corridor to attack the formation.
Engagement algorithms in the onboard computer reduce the probability of more than one missile hitting the same target. In addition, the fire command and control system can allocate individual missiles to engage sequentially numbered valid targets.
During the search phase of the missile flight, the millimetre wave seeker carries out a sweep search for targets on the ground directly ahead and to each side of its path.
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.
Brimstone can also be programmed to cease target search beyond a determined engagement area or to accept a target only within a specified area.
Embedded algorithms can be told 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 also possible to programme the missile to engage targets with a specific radar signature, for example patrol boats.
The missile is fitted with a programmable self-destruct mechanism.
Brimstone is armed with a tandem high-explosive anti-tank warhead capable of penetrating explosive reactive armour.
The front charge initiates the explosion of the armour and clears the path for the main charge to penetrate it with the anti-tank jet dart.
Brimstone 2 missile upgrade
Brimstone 2, an improved version of the Brimstone missile, features new airframe, millimetre-wave (mmW) radar with semi-active laser dual mode seeker capability, and an insensitive munition (IM) rocket motor and warhead.
It was fired at fast targets with a telemetry system in October 2013 and fitted to a Typhoon aircraft for the first time in December 2014.
Production of Brimstone 2 began in July 2014 and the missile entered service with the UK RAF’s Tornado aircraft in July 2016.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) placed a £400m ($565m) order with MBDA to deliver upgraded Brimstone 2 precision-guided air-to-surface missiles for the RAF Typhoon jets, in March 2018.
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