SAAB Australia Develops HIMARS Alternative for the Australian Army

By Australian Defence Business Review

Saab Australia is pitching its innovative rocket-launched version of the small diameter bomb (SDB) as a lower cost complementary capability for the Australian Army’s Project LAND 8113 requirement for a ground launched missile system.

Though a decision is some way away, the current favourite appears to be the US M142 High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) – a wheeled vehicle able to launch the precision guided MGM-140 ATACMS out to a range of 300 kilometres – which has been used extensively in support of US combat operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The next-generation proposed Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) will hit targets out to 500 kilometres.

The Ground-launched SDB comprises a rocket booster attached to a Boeing SDB I, and offers a precision strike capability out to 150 kilometres at substantially lower cost. The 110 kilogram INS/GPS guided GBU-39 SDB I is a proven capability, with more than 35,000 produced and 9,000 dropped in combat.

Saab Australia sales director for land Marc Bryant said project LAND 8113 would acquire a long-range precision fires capability, initially with longer range munitions such as PrSM .

“We are not suggesting the ground-launched SDB is THE solution, but it’s a complementary munition for that longer-range rocket system,” Bryant told ADBR at LAND FORCES 2021 on June 3. “What we are trying to pitch here is a very cost effective system.

“It doesn’t have the legs of a PrSM or ATACMS, but it still has a decent range,” he added. “You can load up to six of these in a standard HIMARS or MLRS container. You can launch multiple SDBs at any one time to get a multiple round, simultaneous impact.”

Trials of ground launched SDB have been conducted in Norway and the US. The USAF has even experimented with swarming SDBs in a program called Golden Horde. While SDB itself is a precision munition manufactured in the US, the rocket motor could be made in Australia under the program to stand up a domestic missile capability.

“This is a great opportunity and this is really low hanging fruit for a sovereign guided munition capability,” Bryant said, adding that, should Australian engineers manage to improve on the existing M26 rocket motor, there’s potential to substantially increase the range.

This article was written by Max Blenkin and published by ADBR on June 7, 2021.