Let’s Discover the Best of the BRIMSTONE Missile

Equipped with a dual-mode seeker and fire-and-forget capability, the BRIMSTONE missile is designed to deliver pinpoint strikes against armoured targets while minimizing collateral damage. Let’s Discover the Best of the BRIMSTONE Missile, a best-in-class precision attack weapon renowned for its robust ground force support. Designed to maintain its superiority in missile technology through 2030 and beyond, this highly advanced munition excels in both air-to-surface and surface-to-surface operations. Known for its unparalleled precision and versatility, the BRIMSTONE missile stands as a testament to cutting-edge military technology.

Developed by MBDA, a European missile manufacturer, it is primarily designed for use by military aircraft against a variety of ground targets. What sets Brimstone apart is its dual-mode guidance system, which combines laser guidance and millimeter-wave active radar homing. This dual-mode capability allows the missile to engage targets in all weather conditions, day or night, with exceptional accuracy.

Photo Credit: MBDA
Photo Credit: MBDA / Let’s Discover the Best of the BRIMSTONE Missile

The missile is equipped with a powerful warhead optimized for precision strikes against armoured and fortified targets, making it particularly effective in complex and dynamic operational environments. Its ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously and adapt to rapidly changing scenarios has solidified its reputation as a key asset in modern air-to-ground warfare. The tandem shaped-charge warhead is much more effective against modern tanks than older similar weapons, such as the AGM-65G Maverick missile.

The missile has been successfully integrated into the arsenals of various countries, including Germany, Poland, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, contributing significantly to enhanced precision capabilities in contemporary military operations. As of 2015, the cost per missile for the dual-mode variant had been quoted at £105,000 each, reflecting the investment required for deploying this cutting-edge technology. Despite the substantial cost, the Brimstone’s proven effectiveness and adaptability justify its status as a valuable asset in the arsenals of nations seeking advanced and reliable precision attack capabilities.

Photo Credit: MBDA / UAV Protector with BRIMSTONE MISSILE
Photo Credit: MBDA / UAV Protector with BRIMSTONE MISSILE

Combat aircraft equipped with the Brimstone weapon provide capabilities in terms of reach, speed, flexibility, precision, and the capacity to engage multiple targets with a single mission load. When deployed from a fixed-wing platform, Brimstone offers a swift response for Close Air Support and counter-insurgency, a capability not achievable solely with helicopters. The versatility of Brimstone extends to a wide array of target types, encompassing fast-moving vehicles, tanks, armoured cars, bunkers, and naval vessels, including both swarming and individual Fast In-shore Attack Craft (FIAC). Notably, the flexibility and maturity of Brimstone allow for its rapid integration onto various other platforms.

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The most recent iteration of Brimstone advances upon the achievements of the successful Brimstone Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), which saw the deployment of the weapon into front-line operations with the RAF. Demonstrating its operational effectiveness during conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya, Brimstone has established itself as the preferred weapon due to its capability to execute precise surgical strikes in time-critical missions, boasting genuine day/night operational capabilities.

Photo Credit: MBDA
Photo Credit: MBDA / The RAF Typhoon is equipped with a formidable arsenal, featuring 6 Brimstone missiles, 2 Paveway LGBs, 2 ASRAAM missiles under its wings, and 4 Meteor AAM under the fuselage corners.

The system offers three distinct modes of operation, providing users with flexibility and a high level of confidence in achieving mission success:

  • Mode 1: Utilizes Semi-Active Laser (SAL) guidance, ideal for engaging static targets with limited or no radar cross-section (RCS).
  • Mode 2: Combines SAL and Millimetre Wave radar guidance, specifically designed for fast-moving targets in cluttered environments.
  • Mode 3: Provides a Fire-and-Forget capability, enabling simultaneous engagement of multiple targets autonomously.

Brimstone has achieved full integration into the Tornado GR4, Typhoon, and Protector UAV. Furthermore, ongoing efforts are in place for integration into the Future Attack Helicopter. The adaptability of this weapon system extends to its suitability for deployment on a diverse array of UAVs, as well as land and surface platforms.

Photo Credit: MBDA
Photo Credit: MBDA / The RAF Tornado is equipped with one Brimstone missile, along with two Paveway bombs and a Rafael Litening Targeting Pod under its fuselage sections.

Brimstone Design Analysis

The design of the Brimstone missile reflects a commitment to precision and adaptability in modern air-to-ground warfare. The integration of advanced materials and technologies contributes to the missile’s overall efficiency and lethality.

Precision Targeting and Advanced Sensor Technology in the System

Brimstone operates as a “fire-and-forget” missile, signifying that the weapon systems officer (WSO) preloads targeting information before launch. The missile is programmable, allowing adjustments to align with specific mission requirements. This capability encompasses the capacity to identify targets within a predefined region, including those in proximity to friendly forces. Additionally, the missile possesses a self-destruct function in cases where it cannot locate a target within the designated area.

Photo Credit: MBDA
Photo Credit: MBDA

The missile exhibits the capability to strategically select the optimal impact point on a target to maximize damage, coupled with its semi-autonomous ability to independently choose targets. Equipped with an advanced sensor suite, including an exceptionally high-frequency millimetric wave radar, the missile can image targets and determine their precise locations. To ensure effective targeting, the missile’s system incorporates an algorithm, ensuring that the missiles strike their targets in a staggered sequence, even when multiple missiles, up to twenty-four, are in flight.

It offers versatility in various attack scenarios, including direct or indirect engagement, targeting a single entity, a column of targets, or an array of targets. The salvo attack feature facilitates dealing with multiple kills in a single encounter. Following launch, the platform retains the flexibility to move freely away from the target region or engage additional targets as needed.

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Brimstone Launch Mechanism

The Brimstone missile is specifically engineered for integration into the avionics and weapon systems of designated military aircraft, ensuring seamless communication between the missile and the aircraft’s sensors and targeting systems. Each launch system is designed to carry three missiles on rails, enabling a single aircraft to transport a substantial missile payload.

For example, a Typhoon fighter can accommodate up to six launch systems, allowing for a maximum payload of eighteen Brimstone missiles, in addition to a practical air-to-air payload. The Royal Saudi Air Force’s Tornado aircraft also includes the Brimstone missile in its arsenal. Brimstone 3 introduces a surface-to-surface launch capability, and various vehicle-based launching options have been in development for the system.

Photo Credit: MBDA / Brimstone under fuselage
Photo Credit: MBDA / Brimstone under the centre fuselage of the Tornado

Latest Brimstone Missile Variants

Brimstone 2

A more than 200% increase in maximum range is among the overall performance improvements, including enhanced range and engagement footprint, resulting from an upgraded seeker, a more modular design, and enhancements to the airframe and software. After five rounds of testing, the system effectively targeted and engaged a pickup truck moving at 70 mph (110 km/h) in a congested road scenario in October 2013. The original launch date for Brimstone 2 was scheduled for November 2015, and in July 2016, it underwent further modifications, incorporating a warhead and rocket engine compliant with insensitive munition regulations. The successful integration into the British Tornado GR4, Eurofighter Typhoon, and AH-64E Apache was achieved.

For the AH-64E Apache, MBDA introduced an enhanced version of Brimstone 2 in July 2016. This update doesn’t impact Brimstone’s anti-armour capacity but is specifically designed for non-armoured targets in land and water domains. The new iteration includes various warhead modes, such as delayed, airburst, impact, and proximity fuzing. It features a cockpit-selectable capability, allowing the pilot to determine the elevation and impact angle of the target for maximum weapon effectiveness. Additionally, it provides a launch aircraft cockpit-selectable trajectory, enabling line-of-sight engagement and high/low missile flight profiles to avoid close-in obstacles.

Photo Credit: MBDA
Photo Credit: MBDA / The weapon pylon of the RAF Typhoon is equipped with a launcher system that carries three missiles on rails. This configuration allows a single aircraft to carry multiple missiles for operational flexibility.

Brimstone 3

In 2019, MBDA conducted successful tests of the latest Brimstone 3 version in Sweden. This version now includes surface-to-surface firing capabilities and new hardware to facilitate future enhancements. The upgrades comprise a new Internal Measurement Unit, an enhanced autopilot, an improved battery for an additional 30% engagement duration, and a new and improved multi-effect warhead. The Brimstone 3 is designed for integration into the RAF’s MQ-9B Protector UAV fleet alongside Paveway IV laser-guided bombs. The launch system incorporates safety measures to ensure the proper handling and release of the missile, minimizing the risk of accidents or malfunctions during launch.

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Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023 / The scale static model of the Typhoon and Saab Gripen showcases the armament capacity, including Brimstone.

Specifications of the Brimstone Missile

  • Weight:  50 kg (110 lb)
  • Length:  1.8 meters
  • Diameter:  7.1 in (180 mm)
  • Warhead: 6.3 kg (14 lb) HEAT (High-explosive anti-tank) tandem shaped charged
  • Guidance:  Millimetric-wave active radar homing, INS autopilot, laser guidance
  • Detonation:  Impact & Command fuze
  • Engine:  Solid fuel rocket
  • Range:  Brimstone I: 20+ km from fixed wing, 12 km from a helicopter and Latest Brimstone 2/3:  60+ km from Aircraft & 40+ km from a helicopter
  • Speed:  Mach 1.3
  • Launch Platform:  Tornado, Typhoon and UAV Protector
photo credit: airpra
photo credit: airpra@aero India 2023 / The scale static model of the Brimstone showcases its formidable capacity to carry 18 missiles during full-scale operations.

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In conclusion, the Brimstone missile represents the pinnacle of precision weaponry. Its dual-mode guidance system ensures unwavering accuracy in all conditions, while the aerodynamic design and potent warhead underscore its efficacy against diverse ground targets. Integrated seamlessly with various military aircraft, the Brimstone stands as a versatile asset for modern air-to-ground missions. As a testament to ongoing technological innovation, the missile system continues to play a pivotal role in enhancing the capabilities of armed forces, offering a sophisticated and adaptable solution for precision strikes in today’s complex operational landscapes.

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