The VAMPIRE Rocket System: A New Addition to Ukraine’s Arsenal

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In the midst of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the United States has reaffirmed its commitment to support the Ukrainian forces by supplying advanced weaponry. Among the latest additions is the VAMPIRE Rocket System, designed to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities against both aerial threats, particularly Russian drones, and ground-based targets. Manufactured by L3Harris Technologies, the VAMPIRE is a portable and versatile system equipped with laser-guided rockets, presenting both opportunities and challenges for its potential use in the Ukrainian theater.

What is the VAMPIRE Rocket System?

The VAMPIRE, short for Vehicle Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment, is a sophisticated weapon system capable of firing 70mm laser-guided rockets, such as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). It is comprised of a four-round rocket launcher integrated with the WESCAM MX-10™ RSTA independent stabilized sighting system, which can be installed on various platforms, including vehicles with cargo beds, pickup trucks, or fixed positions.

IMAGE 1: The WESCAM MX-10 RSTA EO/IR modular sighting system – ideal for surveillance and reconnaissance, and target acquisition missions from amphibious, armored combat and reconnaissance vehicles.

The primary focus of the VAMPIRE is to counter enemy drones, providing the Ukrainian forces with an effective tool to neutralize aerial threats. However, its manufacturer also claims that the system can be used for defense against adversary ground threats, making it a versatile asset for the battlefield.

Cost and Deployment

In January, L3Harris Technologies secured a $40 million contract from the US Department of Defense to supply 14 VAMPIRE weapon systems to the Ukrainian forces. The relatively low-cost of the APKWS rockets, priced at approximately $27,500 each, adds to the appeal of this weapon system for both US and Ukrainian defense planners.

Russian military expert Yury Knutov highlighted the VAMPIRE’s vulnerability to artillery and small arms fire, making it a risky option to deploy directly on the frontline. Instead, deploying the VAMPIREs at a distance from the frontline to protect rear targets from aerial drones may be a more practical approach. However, it’s essential to consider that less sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons, like ZU-23 autocannons, are also capable of shooting down drones, raising questions about the VAMPIRE’s game-changing potential.

Effectiveness and Limitations

The effectiveness of the VAMPIRE system, which repurposes old air-to-ground rockets into laser-guided ground-to-air rockets, remains a subject of debate. While it shows promise against UAVs, its ability to handle other aerial threats appears uncertain. The optical electronic targeting system, which relies on laser guidance, might also face challenges in adverse weather conditions, such as rain and fog.

Conclusion

The introduction of the VAMPIRE Rocket System adds a new dimension to Ukraine’s defense capabilities in countering aerial threats and defending against ground-based targets. Its portability and laser-guided capabilities make it a potentially valuable asset in the ongoing conflict. However, the effectiveness of the system against various aerial threats and its vulnerability to enemy fire raise concerns about its strategic use on the battlefield.

As the conflict continues, both Ukraine and its allies will closely monitor the performance of the VAMPIRE system and assess its impact on the evolving dynamics of the region. The ultimate test lies in its practical application and adaptability to the challenges posed by a complex and ever-changing conflict zone.

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