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The 2015 National Security Strategy signalled a shift in the British Army’s planning focus from counter-insurgency (COIN), low-intensity operations to peer-on-peer conflict. While force design and doctrine are changing to reflect this, it has highlighted that certain capabilities, purchased during the Iraq and Afghanistan eras, might need to be employed differently if they are to retain utility in a divisional warfighting context. The EXACTOR missile, acquired in 2007, is one of those capabilities. While there is broad agreement that EXACTOR plugged an urgent capability gap in both Iraq and Afghanistan, concepts of operations are changing and new capabilities may need to be considered for a British Army gearing up for possible confrontation in Eastern Europe.
EXACTOR, originally designed as a standoff weapon that would allow the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to degrade and destroy enemy armour from distance, fulfilled two roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were base defence and counter-battery capability against hostile indirect fires such as mortars. Its low-yield, real-time video image and accuracy made it an ideal rules of engagement compliant weapons system for COIN environments. Yet, EXACTOR’s range (25 km), whilst ideal for defending forward operating bases in Afghanistan, is too short to threaten Russia’s integrated air defence system (IADS) assets and other high value targets in the deep battlespace. Similarly, its four-pod configuration and reliance on a non-domestic supply chain means it is not optimised for engaging massed armour in the close battle either.
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