Country of origin
4 000 m
Wire, MCLOS (or SACLOS)
by Fairey and BAC, the Swingfire Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) was
one of the most numerous and important missiles used by British
forces during the Cold War, and it was widely exported. This
missile's peculiar name is a reference to the distinctive steep turn
it performs when launched.
Development of the Swingfire began in November 1959, as a
follow-up of the abortive Orange William ATGM. Work proceeded
quickly, with the first test launch performed in late 1960, though
it would be another two years before a contract to manufacture the
Swingfire was forthcoming. Production eventually began in 1966, but
the Swingfire was not declared operational until June of 1969.
The Swingfire project was not uneventful. In addition to the
aforementioned setbacks and delays, escalating costs of the
Swingfire were met with fierce criticism. The project dodged
cancellation repeatedly throughout the 1960s, but didn't escape
unscathed; an increased-range version of the Swingfire was cancelled
in November of 1964, after only £234 000 had been spent on it.
Another blow to the program in later years was the cancellation of a
helicopter-launched version (see below), following a disagreement
between the Army and the RAF over the jurisdiction of helicopters in
the anti-armor role.
Nevertheless, the Swingfire gradually became a major
component of the British Army's arsenal, found several export sales,
and gradually supplanted the obsolete Vigilant and Malkara ATGMs. It
was destined to see more than four decades of service, three of them
with the UK.
The Swingfire is launched from a rectangular metal canister,
commonly referred to as a "bin". The number of bins carried depends
on the platform (see below), while reloads are carried in transport
containers. There are four trapezoid-shaped fins on the Swingfire,
which are wrapped around the missile until its launch, whereupon
they unfurl into a 90-degree crucifix shape typical of most ATGMs.
Guidance of the Swingfire is by wire, with a Manual Command
Line Of Site (MCLOS) interface. This interface allows the missile to
be guided from a position well away from the launcher itself. This
was later replaced by a Semi-Automatic Command Line Of Sight (SACLOS)
guidance system in some Swingfire launchers, as part of the "SWIG" (Swingfire
With Improved Guidance) upgrade. The missile is controlled in flight
using a simple joystick.
It is possible for the Swingfire to be controlled from a
location more 50 m away from the launcher, and up to either 30 m
above or 15 m below. As such, the Swingfire has the advantage of not
only being remotely controllable, but also in being able to launch
from completely behind cover.
The Swingfire missile utilizes the K33 warhead, a 7 kg shaped
charge munition rated to penetrate 800 mm of RHA steel equivalent.
An impact fuse with a crush switch is used to detonate the warhead.
As this warhead lacks a precursor charge, it's utility against
armored vehicles protected by reactive armor is questionable.
is by a single-stage, solid propellant rocket motor with 7 kg of
fuel. This rocket motor is unusual for an ATGM, as it has a
thrust-vectoring nozzle (commonly called a "Jetivator" in
promotional material) that enables extremely sharp turns at low
speeds; in fact, the Swingfire turns up to 90 degrees during its
launch to level-out onto its attack profile. Once level, the
Swingfire reaches its full speed of 185m/sec in moments, reaches a
maximum range of 4 000 m, and is capable of 45-degree turns. A
90-degree turn in the horizontal during the launch phase is also
possible. The minimum range of the Swingfire is 150 m, at which
point in flight the warhead arms.
The Swingfire was deployed into several conflicts, including
the Persian Gulf War and the Invasion of Iraq. Though as luck would
have it, none were ever launched in combat. The Swingfire was still
considered satisfactory in these deployments however, due to its
timely arrival, reliability, and readiness rate.
Just as with its inception, the Swingfire's retirement in the
UK was the subject of a fierce controversy from 2003, again due to
the cost of the missile. Although this time, it was the Swingfire
that was cheaper --- at £7 500, the Swingfire was nearly 1/4 the
cost of the
Javelin intended to replace it. Nonetheless, the Javelin was
eventually procured by the British Army in 2005, and the remaining
Swingfires were retired over the course of the same year.
Production of the Swingfire ceased in 1993, by which time 46
650 missiles had been manufactured. The missile and launcher were
also manufactured in Egypt, as well as the UK. A single missile
costs £7 500 new, but the manufacturer no longer offers new rounds.
The current operators of the Swingfire as of late 2015
include Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. NTI
claims that Iraq also operates the Swingfire. It was also operated
by Belgium, Portugal, and the UK, though these nations have retired
their Swingfire inventories.
Basic production model, designed for use in armored vehicles.
Beeswing: Variant for launch from light trucks. Used on the
Hawkswing: Helicopter-launched version. Used on the Lynx.
Golfswing: Designed for launch from infantry-towed trolleys.
Also carried by the Argocat.
FV102 Striker: CVR(T) variant with five launch tubes. Used by
Belgium and the UK.
FV 438 Swingfire: FV430 variant with two launch tubes. Used
only by the UK.
FV712: Ferret Mk.5 with four launch tubes. Used mainly by
Land Rover: One Tonne Land Rover with four launch tubes.
Argocat: Tows a Golfswing trolley, with two Swingfire tubes.
Lynx (helicopter): Was meant to carry the Swingfire, but this
plan was not operationally implemented.
Numerous other potential launch platforms were evaluated,
including the chassis' of the Centurion,
Chieftain, Saladin, and
Saracen, but none of these were adopted.
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