Title:
Guided missile with distributed guidance mechanism
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A weapons system including a guided missile and a guidance mechanism, separate from the guided missile. The guided missile includes a seeker for producing signals indicative of a position of a target, and a steering mechanism for steering the guided missile. The guidance mechanism controls the steering mechanism, based on the signals, so as to steer the guided missile towards the target.



Inventors:
Fein, Asa (Shchenia, IL)
Ben-horin, Ronen (Haifa, IL)
Application Number:
11/200043
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
08/10/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
244/3.1, 244/3.11
International Classes:
F41G7/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GREGORY, BERNARR E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DR. MARK FRIEDMAN LTD. (Upper Marlboro, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A weapons system comprising: (a) a guided missile including: (i) a seeker for producing signals indicative of a position of a target, and (ii) a steering mechanism for steering said guided missile; and (b) a guidance mechanism, separate from said guided missile, for controlling said steering mechanism, based on said signals, so as to steer said guided missile towards said target.

2. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guided missile is a rocket-propelled grenade.

3. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guided missile is a rifle grenade.

4. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guided missile is a mortar shell.

5. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said signals are digital signals.

6. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said signals are analog signals.

7. The weapons system of claim 1, further comprising: (c) a communication mechanism for sending said signals from said guided missile to said guidance mechanism and for sending control commands from said guidance mechanism to said guided missile.

8. The weapons system of claim 7, wherein said communication mechanism is wireless.

9. The weapons system of claim 7, wherein said communication mechanism includes a transmission medium for conveying said signal from said guided missile to said guidance mechanism and for conveying said control commands from said guidance mechanism to said guided missile.

10. The weapons system of claim 9, wherein said transmission medium includes an optical fiber.

11. The weapons system of claim 9, wherein said transmission medium includes an electrically conductive wire.

12. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guidance mechanism includes an authentication mechanism for restricting use of said guidance mechanism to authorized users.

13. The weapons system of claim 12, wherein said authentication mechanism includes a biosensing mechanism.

14. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guidance mechanism is operative to provide battle damage assessment.

15. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guidance mechanism is operative to process said signals, said controlling of said steering mechanism being based on results of said processing.

16. The weapons system of claim 15, wherein said processing includes image processing.

17. The weapons system of claim 15, wherein said processing includes signal processing.

18. The weapons system of claim 1, wherein said guidance mechanism includes an input mechanism wherewith an operator of said guidance mechanism controls said steering mechanism.

19. The weapons system of claim 1, comprising a plurality of said guided missiles.

20. The weapons system of claim 19, further comprising: (c) a communication mechanism for sending said signals from each of said guided missiles to said guidance mechanism and for sending said control commands from said guidance mechanism to said each guided missile.

21. The weapons system of claim 20, wherein said communication mechanism is wireless.

22. The weapons system of claim 20, wherein said communication mechanism includes, for each said guided missile, a respective transceiver in said each guided missile for sending said signals of said each guided missile from said each guided missile to said guidance mechanism and for receiving said control commands for said each guided missile from said guidance mechanism.

23. The weapons system of claim 22, wherein said communication mechanism includes a single transceiver, operationally connected to said guidance mechanism, for receiving said signals from said guided missiles and for sending said control commands to said guided missiles.

24. The weapons system of claim 22, wherein said communication mechanism includes, for each said guided missile, a respective transceiver, operationally connected to said guidance mechanism, for receiving said signals of said each guided missile from said each guided missile and for sending said control commands for said each guided missile to said each guided missile.

Description:

FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to guided-missile-based weapons systems and, more particularly, to a weapons system that includes a guided missile and a separate guidance mechanism for steering the guided missile towards a target.

FIG. 1 illustrates, schematically, a prior art guided missile 10. Guided missile 10 includes a seeker head 12 that acquires an indication of the position of a target towards which guided missile 10 is to be steered. Typical examples of such indications include an image of the target, a laser reflection from the target and a radar reflection from the target.

Guided missile 10 also includes a guidance computer 14, a propulsion mechanism represented by a rocket motor 16, and a steering mechanism represented by fins 18. Seeker head 12 sends to guidance computer 14 signals that represent the indication of the position of the target. Guidance computer 14 processes these signals to obtain estimates of the position and velocity of the target. Guidance computer 14 then combines these estimates with estimates of the position, velocity and attitude of guided missile 10 to generate control commands that are sent to propulsion mechanism 16 and steering mechanism 18 to propel and steer guided missile 10 towards the target.

This guidance mechanism suffers from drawbacks including the high cost and high weight of guidance computer 14 that is destroyed along with the rest of guided missile 10 when guided missile 10 strikes the target. Guidance computer 14 typically has a high power requirement that must be satisfied by a bulky and expensive power supply. Updating the algorithms used to guide guided missile 10 often entails replacing guidance computer 14 with a more powerful guidance computer 14, which replacement must be done for every guided missile 10 separately. Furthermore, despite continuing advances in electronic miniaturization, guidance computer 14 typically is too bulky to be installed in a small missile such as a rocket-propelled grenade.

There is thus a widely recognized need for, and it would be highly advantageous to have, a guided-missile-based weapons system that would overcome the disadvantages of presently known systems as described above. In particular, although seeker heads 12 and servomechanisms for activating fins 18 are available that are small enough to be mounted in rocket-propelled grenades, no such guidance computer 14 is presently known.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the present invention there is provided a weapons system including: (a) a guided missile including: (i) a seeker for producing signals indicative of a position of a target, and (ii) a steering mechanism for steering the guided missile; and (b) a guidance mechanism, separate from the guided missile, for controlling the steering mechanism, based on the signals, so as to steer the guided missile towards the target.

Preferably, the guided missile is a rocket-propelled grenade, a rifle grenade or a mortar shell.

Optionally, the signals are either digital signals or analog signals.

Preferably, the weapons system also includes a communication mechanism for sending the signals from the guided missile to the guidance mechanism and for sending control commands from the guidance mechanism to the guided missile. Preferably, the communication mechanism is wireless. Alternatively, the communication mechanism includes a transmission medium for conveying the signals from the guided missile to the guidance mechanism and for conveying the control commands from the guidance mechanism to the guided missile. In one embodiment of the present invention, the transmission medium includes an optical fiber. In another embodiment of the present invention, the transmission medium includes an electrically conductive wire.

Preferably, the guidance mechanism includes an authentication mechanism for restricting use of the guidance mechanism to authorized users. Most preferably, the authentication mechanism includes a biosensing mechanism.

Preferably, the guidance mechanism is operative to provide battlefield damage assessment.

Preferably, the guidance mechanism processes the signals produced by the seeker, and controls the steering mechanism based on results of that processing. Most preferably, the processing of the signals produced by the seeker includes image processing and/or signal processing.

Preferably, the guidance mechanism includes an input mechanism with which an operator of the guidance mechanism controls the steering mechanism.

Preferably, the weapons system of the present invention includes a plurality of the guided missiles.

More preferably, the weapons system of the present invention includes, in addition to the plurality of guided missiles, a communication system for sending the signals from each guided missile to the guidance mechanism and for sending the control commands from the guidance mechanism to each guided missile. Most preferably, the communication system is wireless. Each guided missile includes a respective transceiver for sending the guided missile's signals to the guidance mechanism and for receiving the missile's control commands from the guidance mechanism. In one most preferred embodiment of the present invention, the guidance mechanism is operationally connected to a single transceiver for receiving the signals from all the guided missiles and for sending the control commands to the guided missiles. In another most preferred embodiment of the present invention, the guidance mechanism is operationally connected to a plurality of dedicated transceivers, each transceiver for receiving the signals from a respective one of the guided missiles and for sending that guided missile's control commands to that guided missile.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a prior art guided missile;

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of a weapons system of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is of a guided-missile-based weapons system with distributed guidance. Specifically, the present invention can be used to provide automatic guidance of small missiles, such as rocket-propelled grenades, rifle grenades and mortar shells, that conventionally are not thought of as “guided” missiles.

The principles and operation of a weapons system according to the present invention may be better understood with reference to the drawings and the accompanying description.

Returning now to the drawings, FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of a weapons system 20 of the present invention. Weapons system 20 includes a plurality of guided missiles 22. Each guided missile 22 inherits from prior art guided missile 10 seeker head 12, propulsion mechanism 16 and steering mechanism 18. Unlike guided missile 10, each guided missile 22 lacks guidance computer 14. Instead, weapons system 20 includes a single guidance computer 34 as part of a guidance unit 30 that is separate from guided missiles 22. Instead of guidance computer 14, each guided missile 22 includes a transceiver 24. Guidance unit 30 includes a set of corresponding transceivers 32. Each transceiver 24 transmits the signals produced by seeker head 12, along with other signals that represent indications of the position, velocity and attitude of guided missile 22, as RF signals 26 that are received by the corresponding transceiver 32 and sent to guidance computer 34. As in guided missile 10, the signals from seeker head 12 represent the indication of the position of the target that is acquired by seeker head 12. Guidance computer 34 performs whatever processing is necessary on the RF signals 26 received from each guided missile 22, including signal processing and image processing, to obtain estimates of the position and velocity of the target and of the position, velocity and attitude of guided missile 22. Guidance computer 34 then performs guidance computing to combine all these estimates to generate control commands that are sent, as RF signals 28 via the appropriate transceivers 32 and 24, to each propulsion mechanism 16 and steering mechanism 18 to propel and steer each guided missile 22 towards its respective target. Unlike the prior art, none of this processing is done inside any of guided missiles 22. In this manner, guidance unit 30 controls several guided missiles 22, even guided missiles 22 of different types, at the same time.

Alternatively, guidance unit 30 includes a single transceiver 32 that communicates with all transceivers 24, using, for example, time domain multiplexing.

Transceivers 24 and 32 constitute a wireless communication mechanism with which guidance unit 30 communicates with guided missiles 22. In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, guidance unit 30 exchanges optical signals with guided missiles 22 via optical fibers that pay out behind guided missiles 22 as guided missiles 22 fly toward their targets. In another alternative embodiment of the present invention, guidance unit 30 exchanges electrical signals with guided missile 22 via electrically conductive wires that pay out behind guided missiles 22 as guided missiles 22 fly towards their targets. In the various preferred embodiments of the present invention, the signals exchanged between guided missiles 22 and guidance unit 30 may be either analog signals or digital signals.

In different preferred embodiments of the present invention, guidance unit 30 may be carried by an operator of weapons system 20, or may be mounted on a vehicle.

Guidance computer 34 includes a biosensor 36 such as a fingerprint detector or a retina scanner. Guidance computer 34 is configured to be operated only by an operator that can authenticate himself or herself using biosensor 36.

Guidance computer 34 also includes a display mechanism 38. Guidance computer 34 is operative to present battlefield damage assessment, based on signals 26, to the operator of guidance unit 30. Such battlefield damage assessment is well-known in the art and need not be described in detail here. For example, RAFAEL's Popeye air-to-surface missile system features similar battlefield damage assessment capabilities.

Guidance computer 34 also includes a conventional input mechanism 40, for example a keyboard and/or a mouse and/or a joystick, that the operator of guidance computer 30 optionally uses to override the control commands produced by guidance computer 30 so as to steer one of guided missiles 22 manually to its target, for example with reference to an image of the target that is computed from the signals received by guidance computer 30 from that guided missile 22 and that is displayed to the operator of guidance computer 30 using display mechanism 38.

One advantage of the present invention is that transceivers 22 are available that are considerably smaller and lighter than guidance computer 14 and so can be mounted in small missiles such as rocket-propelled grenades, rifle grenades and mortar shells. Of course, the present invention also is applicable to larger missiles, such as air-launched missiles, that conventionally are guided missiles of the type illustrated in FIG. 1. Another advantage of the present invention is that only one guidance computer 34 must be upgraded as new algorithms and new hardware become available. Yet another advantage of the present invention is that guidance unit 30 can be configured to operate with missiles 22 of several different types.

While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, it will be appreciated that many variations, modifications and other applications of the invention may be made.





 
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