Africa Aerospace & Defence 2018

Laser rocket on show [AAD18D2]

20 September 2018

Thales Belgium (formerly FZ, Forges de Zeebrugge) is exhibiting some of its range of rockets, which have been adopted for many platforms on a worldwide basis.

The company has been producing rockets for more than 50 years, and has manufactured more than eight million. Most are for air-launched applications, although they have been integrated with land vehicles and small naval vessels.

The company's latest weapon is the FZ275 LGR (laser-guided rocket), which undertook its first firing in October 2015 from a Rooivalk of the South African Air Force. Based on the unguided folding-fin aircraft rocket (FFAR) that has four fold-out tail fins, the FZ275 adds a NATO-compatible semi-active laser seeker operating at a wavelength of 1,064nm.

This detects designated targets and feeds data to an electronic controller assembly, which also has a micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)-based inertial measurement unit. The controller provides steering commands to four pop-out canard control surfaces.

Adding laser guidance to the standard aircraft rocket turns it into a precision munition with low collateral damage, filling a destructive effect niche below laser-guided bombs. The LGR also permits carriage by small fixed- and rotary-wing types that do not have the ability to lift heavy bombs.

FZ275 can be used by any platform equipped with the FZ rocket system. A standalone configuration imparts only a minor impact on platform integration but with reduced modes of operation, while a fully integrated system offers the full range of capabilities, including lock on before launch.

In addition to the FZ725, Thales Belgium (Hangar 3, Stand CW12) is showing examples of unguided 70mm rockets that offer a range of warhead options. Both folding-fin and wraparound fin rockets are produced. The company also manufactures launcher pods for helicopters and fixed-wing applications in seven-, 12- and 19-round configurations. The 12-tube FZ231 is being shown on the Paramount outside display fitted to the armed Airbus Helicopters EC635.

(310 words)