Laser Rocket Firing Humvees Spotted In Service With Ukraine
Armored Humvees with four-shot laser-guided rocket pods offer Ukraine a quick moving precision attack capability against a wide variety of targets.
The first real look at Ukrainian troops employing U.S.-made laser-guided 70mm rockets appears to have emerged. A video circulating online shows at least one American-supplied up-armored M1152A1 Humvee with an Arnold Defense LAND-LGR4 four-shot launcher firing what are said to be Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II rockets.
The video in question, seen below, first appeared online this past weekend, but it's unclear where or when it might have been taken. The beginning of the clip does feature the logo of Ukraine's 37th Separate Marine Brigade, which was reportedly only stood up in February.
Reports had first begun to emerge last month that this 37th Separate Marine Brigade was employing Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) rockets from launchers mounted on M1152A1s – a two-door pickup truck-style up-armored Humvee variant – last month. A video had previously emerged that was said to show elements of the unit using one of these mobile launchers somewhere in the southern Kherson region, but it offered no hard visual evidence of this.
The new video also shows a 70mm rocket, with a slogan written on it in Ukrainian, but whether or not it is equipped with a laser-guided kit cannot be definitively seen in the clip. The LAND-LGR4 launcher is primarily intended to fire laser-guided 70mm rockets, but can also fire unguided types. The U.S. military has confirmed sending APKWS II rockets to Ukraine.
APKWS II rockets consist of three main components, the warhead, the rocket motor, and the guidance section which slots in between the other two parts. As a result, they can be fitted with various different kinds of warheads, as can standard unguided 70mm rockets. What warheads Ukrainian forces might be employing on the rockets seen in the video are unclear. However, they look to be high-explosive types judging by footage of them hitting their mark.
A more recently announced American military aid package for Ukraine has also contained 70mm Hydra-series rockets, but it's unclear if any of those munitions have arrived in the country. Ukraine's armed forces have received guided 70mm rockets of an unknown type, as well as launchers and vehicles, from Germany, too. They may have gotten unguided 70mm rockets from other sources, as well.
This being said, there are clear indications that the rockets seen being fired in the new video are APKWS IIs or another guided design. The footage shows multiple impacts that look very accurate. This includes hits on relatively small windows on multiple houses, as well as another that takes out some kind of object, possibly a domed antenna, on top of an elevated mast. APKWS II is known to have this kind of precision.
APKWS II rockets require a laser to actively 'lase' the target and it's unclear how Ukrainian forces might be achieving this from what is seen in the video. Personnel closer to the targets could be employing hand-held or vehicle-mounted laser designators.
Another possibility is that Ukrainian forces are using U.S.-supplied VAMPIRE systems, or similar mast-mounted designators, to guide the rockets to their targets. L3Harris' VAMPIRE can be configured to customer specifications, but a typical arrangement involves a vehicle-mounted LAND-LGR4, an elevated sensor turret, and a fire control system, as you can read more about here. In August 2022, L3Harris said it expected to deliver the first VAMPIRES to Ukraine within nine months.
VAMPIRE is primarily designed to turn guided 70mm rockets into anti-drone weapons. However, when it was first announced that Ukrainian forces would receive these systems, The War Zone noted that they could also be employed against targets on the ground. When it was first revealed that Ukraine was getting APKWS IIs, we also highlighted how these could be used in the surface-to-surface role.
There are no clearly visible sensor turrets of any kind on any of the Humvees with the launchers seen in the video, but separate vehicles fitted with them could be somewhere off-camera.
An individual is visible at one point holding something that is pixelated out, as seen below. Despite the censoring this looks to be a hand-held controller for a smaller drone – very likely one of the ones being used to capture footage of the impacts. Commercial drones can also carry laser designators, which would be a good solution for scouting and engaging targets with precision nearby.
It's also unclear how many of these launcher vehicles may be in Ukrainian service now with the 37th Separate Marine Brigade or any other unit.
Regardless, this launcher configuration together with APKWS II rockets could be a very useful weapon for Ukraine's military in various contexts. APKWS II's manufacturer, U.K.-headquartered BAE Systems, says that these munitions have a maximum range when launched from the ground of around 3.7 miles (6 kilometers). It's also a low-cost weapon, with each complete APKWS II round costing approximately $27,500.
So, mobile launchers loaded with APKWS IIs, coupled with appropriate designators, could carry out precision strikes on a variety of targets. This includes, as seen in the video, hostile forces in covered positions like buildings and key enemy systems like communications arrays and radar dishes. The rockets could, of course, also be used against other lighter armored target sets, such as light armored and unarmored vehicles and personnel in the open.
The vehicle-mounted launchers would give Ukrainian forces the option of shooting and scooting, which would help protect them from enemy counter-attacks. The up-armored Humvees being employed in this instance would offer at least an additional layer of defense against certain kinds of threats, including shrapnel from artillery fire, which is a major threat to forces on both sides of the current conflict.
The emergence of this rocket launcher vehicle also comes as Ukrainian forces continue to gear up for a new counter-offensive. A flexible, lower-end precision-strike option could be very valuable in that context for engaging strong points that Russian forces have been erecting along parts of the front in the past few months.
The Humvee-mounted launchers could be used to fire volleys of unguided rockets. At the same time, with only four rounds able to be loaded at a time, the LAND-LGR4s would not necessarily be capable of delivering the kind of volume of fire required to make unguided indirect strikes most effective. Unguided rockets could be effective in direct-fire scenarios, but accurately aiming them could present other issues.
However they might be being employed, there is now clear visual evidence that Humvee-mounted 70mm rocket launchers capable of firing guided APKWS II rockets are in active service with at least one Ukrainian unit.
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