Rest-of-World Land Combat Systems

Threat Update Krasnopol--A Laser-Guided Projectile for Tube Artillery

Mr. Walter Williams
Threat Support Directorate
Fort Leavenworth, KS


Modern advances in armament and technology are having a revolutionary impact on the development and application of combined arms doctrine and tactics. The technological advances in the development and production of precision weapons and their components are excellent examples of this revolutionary impact. The artillery precision weapon family of munitions includes: The purpose of this article is not to discuss the entire artillery precision weapon family of munitions, but rather the semiactive laser-guided projectile known as Krasnopol.

The Krasnopol is a Russian-developed and Russian-produced semiactive laser-guided projectile designed to effectively defeat:
The fielding of the Krasnopol provides a tube artillery unit the following advantages. First, tube artillery units are capable of firing at individual targets (to include pinpoint targets such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, field fortifications) with a high probability of a first-round kill. Thus, the traditional requirement for an area fire or artillery barrage is eliminated. Second, a tube artillery unit can fire at group targets using the same gun settings computed relative to the center of mass of the group target. Third, the Krasnopol can be fired without meteorological and ballistic data at a range of ten to twelve kilometers.
The Krasnopol is produced in two variants. The 152-mm Krasnopol is a two-section projectile designed to operate with both towed (D-20, 2A36, 2A65 Msta-B) and SP (2S3 Akatsiya, 2S5 Giatsint, and 2S19 Msta-S) guns and howitzers. A major drawback to this round is the incompatibility with the autoloader of the 2S19 due to the projectile's length. The Krasnopol-M (152-mm/155-mm) was developed as a follow-on product improvement that is fully compatible with the 2S19 autoloader and enhances the capability for the projectile to be used with western-produced 155-mm howitzers. Figure 1 illustrates the comparative operational characteristics of the Krasnopol, Krasnopol-M, and the U.S. Copperhead laser-guided munitions. Both the Krasnopol and Krasnopol-M are superior to the Copperhead in the areas of range, projectile weight, targets engaged, attack profile, and operational field handling. However, there is a 15% range difference (three kilometers) between the Krasnopol and the Krasnopol-M.

Caliber (mm)152152/155155
Firing System (NOTE: The following list of systems are presented as examples for each projectile caliber.)TOWED: D-20, 2A36, 2A65 Msta-B SP: 2S3, 2S5, 2S19 Msta-STOWED: D-20, 2A36, 2A65 Msta-B, (US) M114A2, M198 SP: 2S3, 2S5, 2S19 Msta-S, (US) M109, TOWED: M114A2, M198 SP: M109A2/3, M109A6
Range (km)201716
Warhead TypeFrag-HEFrag-HEHEAT
Length (mm)1,3009551,370
Weight (kg)
Targets EngagedArmored Vehicles, C4I Posts, Field FortificationsArmored Vehicles, C4I Posts, Field FortificationsArmored Vehicles
Target Attack ProfileDiving Top AttackDiving Top AttackLaser Illuminated Point
Initial PhaseFree FlightFree FlightFree Flight
Middle PhaseInertialInertialInertial
Terminal PhaseInertialInertialInertial
Max Field Storage Time w/o Shipping CaseNo RestrictionsNo RestrictionsNo longer than 72 hours inside SP Arty systems in a polyethylene bag.
Seeker Head Protection While Handling The Projectile.Protected by a nose cap discarded in flight.Protected by a nose cap discarded in flight.None. Seeker head must be protected from impacts.
Pre-Fire PreparationConnect both parts of projectile.Same as a standard conventional munition.Before loading, entrance pupil and tail fin slots must be inspected for damage and contamination.
Requirements for LoadingSame as a standard conventional munitionSame as a standard conventional munitionNo sand, dust, or moisture. The projectile must be protected from impact with other surfaces.

The 2K25 Krasnopol complex includes the OF-39 Krasnopol projectile; a 1D22, 1D20, or 1D15 laser target designator (LTD); and the 1A35 shot synchronization system (1A35K command device, and 1A35I observation post device). Normally, a LTD operator aims a laser at a target, and one to two rounds are fired for target engagement. A signal confirming the firing of the projectile is transmitted from the firing unit (via a communications link from the 1A35K to the 1A35I) to the battery command observation post (COP). The LTD operator continues to illuminate the target with a laser beam during the terminal phase of the Krasnopol's flight. The Krasnopol's gyroscopic homing head locks onto the target beam, and aerodynamic control surfaces (located on the projectile body) guide the projectile to the target. Once the target is destroyed, the LTD operator can shift to another target and continue to engage either preplanned targets or targets of opportunity.

Russian artillery units train under realistic field conditions in order to effectively use laser-guided munitions like the Krasnopol. The training includes both gun crews and LTD operators engaging and destroying stationary and moving targets. The targets are arrayed as a threat or foreign army would deploy forces on the battlefield. Thus, the LTD operator develops or learns the skills required to determine laser-guided munition targets and conditions that either enhance or degrade the use of the munition. Predicting when a target will enter a kill zone is a very difficult task when using a laser-guided munition. Therefore, LTD operators learn how to plan kill zones along avenues of approach or counterattacks in order to engage and destroy moving targets.
Timeliness is critical during the engagement of a moving target. The likelihood of a Krasnopol achieving a first-round hit is severely reduced if the projectile is not delivered on time. Even the likelihood of a second-round hit is diminished due to the variation in location of a moving target. Therefore, the employment of the Krasnopol is enhanced through the training of units in preplanning kill zones. Prior to engagement, the LTD operator conducts a terrain reconnaissance of the kill zone using the laser rangefinder on the target designator. The LTD operator predetermines the points of engagement covered by the Krasnopol's seeker footprint (one kilometer radius, two kilometer diameter). The gun range and azimuth settings are calculated (in advance) by the battery fire direction center and recorded by the gun crew chief. This translates into a higher probability of a first-round hit and destruction of the moving target. LTD operators and firing units train to the standard of achieving a direct hit on a moving vehicle on the first or second shot.

There are many variations in the number of equipment sets related to the employment of Krasnopol-equipped firing units. Various tactical situations and firing systems will dictate the overall employment of the Krasnopol. FM 100-60, Armor- and Mechanized-Based Opposing Force: Organization Guide list a typical opposing force (OPFOR) 152-mm SP howitzer battalion as equipped with four sets of the Krasnopol-M. Each set is composed of the LTD (1D22, 1D20, 1D15), the 1A35 shot synchronization system, and 50 projectiles per LTD. Thus, a total of 200 Krasnopol projectiles are fielded to each 152-mm SP howitzer battalion. One battery of the battalion is designated as the special-weapons or Krasnopol battery. The Krasnopol battery commander designates one platoon (possibly on a rotating basis to maintain crew proficiency) as the principal Krasnopol firing unit. A Krasnopol platoon basic load consists of the Krasnopol, smoke, and illuminating rounds. The Krasnopol firing platoon retains 140 Krasnopol projectiles, while the sixty remaining projectiles are distributed throughout the battalion at a rate of four Krasnopols per tube. One LTD is distributed to each battery COP (three per battalion) and the battalion's mobile reconnaissance post. The LTD operator uses a concealed location to position the LTD within a 15 arc left or right of the gun target line and no more than seven kilometers (preferably five kilomteres) from the target. During engagement, each gun (within the Krasnopol platoon) fires one Krasnopol projectile in succession either on command of the LTD operator or on a predetermined time sequence with less than thirty seconds between projectiles per designator. Upon destruction of the initial target, the LTD operator shifts the designator to subsequent targets downwind (from the previous engagement) to reduce smoke and dust interference with the designator.

Countermeasures and Counter-countermeasures
A major shortcoming of employing the Krasnopol (as well as other laser-guided munitions) is the requirement to illuminate the target with the laser beam for five to fifteen seconds. Long target-illumination times enable enemy targets equipped with laser warning detectors to effectively employ countermeasures that prevent the target from further illumination by the laser beam. Thus, the guidance of the Krasnopol is disrupted and the target survives the engagement. The most effective means of protection are laser warning detectors that automatically cue grenade launchers to fire a number of smoke grenades within two to three seconds after detection of a laser beam. A smoke cloud builds up around the vehicle six to eight seconds after firing. The smoke cloud bends or refracts the laser beam and provides a false homing point for the Krasnopol. In essence, an effective laser protection screen is deployed around the target within eight to eleven seconds after a laser detection. Various open source materials disclose that western laser warning systems are more sensitive (up to fifteen meters) than Russian laser warning systems (less than fifteen meters).
The LTD operator can counter this countermeasure by using an initial laser offset procedure. The laser offset procedure requires the LTD operator to first determine a land feature or easily referenced landmark within the kill zone. The operator surveys the kill zone for background conditions that may cause sufficient backscatter (from other reflecting surfaces) to provide the target early warning of the LTD laser beam. The LTD operator lases at the predetermined offset point (fifteen to twenty meters from the target) at the beginning of the fire mission. The LTD operator or his assistant is alerted to the Krasnopol's acquisition of the laser beam either by a "munition approach" light-emitting diode on the 1A35 shot synchronization equipment or a blinking signal light in the optics of the LTD. The LTD operator begins shifting the laser target designator crosshairs to the center of the target four to five seconds after the signal prompt. The shifting of the laser beam from the offset point to the target is two to three seconds prior to the terminal phase of projectile flight. The offset procedure process takes a total of six to eight seconds. Thus, the Krasnopol is able hit and destroy the target prior to employment of laser countermeasures. The offset procedure requires a skilled LTD operator due to the requirement for increased hand and eye coordination during the laser beam-shifting process.

The United States demonstrated during Desert Storm that the force that initially attains and maintains fire superiority has the advantage of freedom of maneuver and reduced casualties from enemy artillery fire. The Krasnopol and Krasnopol-M provide users with the capability of target destruction at lower expenditure rates and shorter firing times. The potential low-cost proliferation of these rounds provides potential U.S. adversaries a capability to successfully attack and destroy targets ranging from thinly protected C4I systems to armored vehicles at a critical place and time on a future battlefield. Thus, these rounds can also become a force multiplier for small forces (guerrilla, terrorist, etc.) against a larger, technically advanced force in low intensity conflicts or military operations other than war.

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