“‘Vampire’ to transform Ukraine pickups into deadly missile launchers” –Defense News

The VAMPIRE system can fit in almost any pickup or vehicle with a cargo bed. (Courtesy of L3Harris)

Defense News reports,

The U.S. is sending Ukraine “Vampire” kits that transform pickup trucks and other non-tactical vehicles into highly portable missile launchers...The L3Harris-made weapon ― a small, four-barreled rocket launcher and sensor ball ― can be mounted in two hours and operated by a single person, the company said. It can be equipped with missiles to hit ground or air targets including unmanned aircraft systems.

Gee, that sounds like something the Coast Guard could use, first and foremost on the Webber class FRCs of PATFORSWA, but really on virtually all cutters. It could be almost a ubiquous as the .50 caliber machine gun. Good for use against drones and swarming small craft, even small ships, and a bigger single round punch than any weapon in the current Coast Guard inventory.

The weapons expected to be used by the VAMPIRE (Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment) system are the AGR-20 APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System), 70mm (2.75″) rockets with a semi-active laser homing guidance kit added.

This is not an expensive, exotic, limited production weapon. It is used in the thousands by the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. It is combat proven. As we noted earlier, in “More on Surface Launch Application of APKWS,

“… the U.S. military has a lot of 70mm rockets and buys thousands more every year. The Army alone plans to buy 60,000 unguided rockets in fiscal 2023 alone. BAE Systems, which builds the APKWS II seeker kit, is tooled to build 25,000 of them per year and is expanding production, according to its website. It has already delivered 37,000 units in six years of production.”

As I have contended,

This is a weapon the Coast Guard could add, relatively painlessly, that could deal with a range of threats including:

  • Drones/Unmanned Air Systems
  • Small, fast, highly maneuverable surface threats
  • Small ships

With the right choice of ammunition type, it might provide a degree of effectiveness against larger ships, all while doing so with great precision and minimal chance of collateral  damage.

It is an easy fix, at least for the lower end of target set. If we can’t mount APKWS launchers on the 25mm Mk38, on the Webber class, we could mount it on the deck immediately above and behind the gun.

That the VAMPIRE system includes a laser designator also means that it can be used to identify targets for supporting units, particularly attack aircraft, something else I think we need.

6 thoughts on ““‘Vampire’ to transform Ukraine pickups into deadly missile launchers” –Defense News

  1. Completely agree. The APKWS should be added to the Mk38 and it shouldn’t be too difficult to add a laser designator to the EO suite, or just add the dedicated system from L3Harris.

    I would add this to the FRC, OPC, NSC and PSC.

  2. VAMPIRE is certainly a good option for adding more firepower to cutters on a budget, and similar pods could certainly be added to autocannon mounts, but my recommendation would be to pair the APKWS rocket with a M2 Browning on something like CROWS-J instead. Based on the 32-pound weight for the rocket you’d probably have to go down to a two-pack, but that should be fine since the Coast Guard is mostly concerned with single targets and the lighter weight allows integration on smaller vessels.

  3. The Vampire kit comes with the Arnold Defense Fletcher 4-shot rocket pod, a nice package, but there are other pods such as the 7-shot to the huge 19 and 23-shot pod.

    The USCG, USMC, and US Navy can have a APKWS MLRS 2.75-inch rocket pod if they so choose with the other pods, configured for surface mounting. The 4-shot seems destined for light tactical trucks and ATVs, but in reality, I think that the helicopter rocket pods can be mounted on tactical trucks for 7-23 rocket rounds, or can double-pod and make 8-shot out of two Fletcher pods. Four rockets seem pretty slim in number and I don’t think reloading would be fast by hand.

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