The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson, who has consistently supported Ukraine’s defense capabilities, said recently that the United Kingdom is considering providing Brimstones missiles to the Armed Forces and is working on the technical side of the issue. What is this missile and why is it important for Ukraine?
Literally Boris Johnson said the following: “One of the systems that we’re looking at … is to see if we could mount some Brimstones on the back of technicals (vehicles) to see if that will do the job.”
This is actually a very strange expression, especially considering that Brimstones missiles are currently used by the British Air Force, Saudi Arabia and Germany only from jets and helicopters. And, as we have repeatedly noted, NATO’s weapons are not compatible with the fire control systems and aircraft of the Armed Forces.
In fact, Brimstones options for use from ground platforms were considered, and the missile manufacturer, the British company MBDA UK, together with the Polish PGZ in 2019 even designed the concept of a new generation tank destroyer on the BMP-1 chassis. Such a vehicle could theoretically fire 12 Brimstones missiles per round, each of which, thanks to swarm AI, is able to find and destroy its target in the effective area. Such a high-precision multiple rocket launcher is able to clear the entire zone of enemy equipment. Unfortunately, this project remained at the design stage.
In addition, the possibility of using Brimstones missiles with the chassis of the South Korean K9 Thunder ACS was considered. In this version, as much as three launch systems for eight missiles each can be installed on the chassis, launching 24 missiles with individual guidance.
In 2021, MBDA UK, together with the American General Dynamics, launched a tank destroyer project based on the Ajax BMP. These are two launch containers for four Brimstones each.
And finally, another option, the integration of Brimstones with the robotic ground chassis THeMIS from the Estonian company Milrem Robotics. Very interesting modification for one launch container with 6 missiles.
It seems that Boris Johnson meant an option like this for Ukraine. That is, the MBDA must find domestic chassis, say MT-LB or BMP-1, and integrate Brimstones launch containers plus a targeting and fire control system for these missiles. Sounds quite complicated, but after the development of special Phoenix Ghost combat drones at the request of Ukraine within the short term, it no longer looks like a complete fantasy.
Brimstone missiles are a modified and improved version of the American AGM-114 Hellfire, i.e. air-to-surface weapons. Brimstone’s main tasks are to destroy armored vehicles and important targets – command posts, radars, SAMs and more. In addition, Brimstone can be used as anti-ship missiles against light ships, speedboats and more. A tandem cumulative warhead weighing 6.3 kg is unlikely to damage a large ship, but it will be effective if it hits the patrol boat.
Brimstone entered service in 2005, but has already received numerous upgrades. The latest versions of Brimstone 3 can be launched from ground chassis, and the SPEAR 3 modification will receive a swarm AI, multi-mode guidance system and a range of up to 130 km when launched from the air.
The Brimstone II, which are currently in service, have a speed of 450 m/s and a range of 60 km when used from the air. From ground platforms, the combat range will be about 12 km. It is very good for high-precision anti-tank weapons.
Whether MBDA UK will be able to implement such an experimental system for the Armed Forces, we do not know for sure. But this is not the first time that Western companies have tried to test the latest weapons in real war, or test some concepts. We do not mind this helping to bring victory closer. So we wish inspiration to the MBDA and domestic gunsmiths, who will probably be involved in this project.
Mass – 50 kg
Length – 1.8 m
Diameter – 180 mm
Warhead – 6.3 kg tandem cumulative
Engine – solid fuel
Range – 12-20 km (Brimstone I), 40-60 km (Brimstone II)
Speed - 450 m/s (Mach 1.3)
Guidance – 94-GHz active homing radar, inertial autopilot, laser guidance
Cost – £105,000 per unit