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,
- “BAE Systems Successfully Tests APKWS Laser-Guided Rockets Against UAS” –Seapower, Oct. 2021
- Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APWS) –the Video, Feb. 2021
- “BAE successfully tests ground-launched APKWS rockets for first time” –Defense News, June 2020
- Fletcher/APKWS, a Pocket Missile System, Made in America, May 2018
- Guided Weapons Made Easy, Oct. 2017
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.