Posts Tagged switchblade

Cool Stuff: A Quadrotor That Can Grasp Like An Eagle Or Harvest Energy From Powerlines

These are some incredible developments in Quadrotor/UAS technology. The ability to ‘grab’ something in mid-flight or to have the device harvest energy from a power line is amazing.

For the battlefield, there are some interesting uses for a quadrotor that could grab things on the fly like an eagle. A larger robot could be used to actually grab prisoners or steal equipment from the enemy. I have talked about defeating ‘hit and run’ tactics of the enemy, and imagine being able to capitalize on such an attack by not only stunning or wounding with a Switchblade, but then snatching the combatant with a ‘Grabber’.

I could also see using something like this for resupply missions that require an exchange between parties. I need this, and you need that, so let’s use the Grabber to quickly exchange those items. Perhaps there are sensitive materials that need to get picked up quickly–well the Grabber could be the one to do that. The Grabber could be used to pick up battlefield munitions to clear an area.

What would really be wild is to use a Grabber to attack and steal other UAS’s. Like two birds attacking one another, and may the bigger more aggressive bird win. Which if you look at where all this is going, quadrotors like this and their usages will mimic what animals or insects can do.

As to harvesting energy from powerlines, the Grabber would be an excellent tool for that. Or maybe the Grabber would gather fuel for a fuel cell that it is operating from, like a bird gathering sticks for it’s nest. Lot’s of ideas there and these robots will have all sorts of ways sustaining itself in the wild.

Interesting stuff and the imagination is the only limit here. –Matt


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Weapons: Switchblade Update–Army And Marines Training With The Weapon, Fielding In Afghanistan Soon

For the first time they will have their own organic ability to engage targets [with a UAV],” he said.
Units that identify potential targets typically have to call for air support, a multistep process.
Enemies often slip away by the time an armed unmanned aerial vehicle, attack helicopter, fighter-bomber or quick-reaction force arrive on station. Marines also compete with other allied units for mission priority or those taking enemy fire, so missions are not always filled.
“Think about it — pairing switchblade aerial munitions with an [unmanned surveillance drone like a] Raven, Wasp or Puma — a small team with those tools can know what is going on around them within about 15 klicks,” Gitlin said. “Once they identify a threat, Switchblade lets them engage that threat immediately.”

This is outstanding and I am glad to see the troops get their hands on these things so they can play around with them. All in all, it will be the grunts on the ground that find the true usefulness of this weapon. Their feedback is what will be most important, and I certainly hope the military and Aerovironment listens to what they have to say. I am sure the SF units that have already used this thing, are giving their input as well. So it will be fascinating how this evolves and turns out.

As to the reaction by the troops so far?  Well, here are the two quotes from both the Army and Marines about it, from both of these articles below.

“I’ve worked with the Raven B, Raven DDL, but I feel that the practicality of this system is through the roof. This system is just the bee’s knees,” said Spc. Andrew Christensen, gunner and raven trainer, 1st Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. “This UAV has the capabilities to be used numerous ways in Afghanistan. Being able to set the warhead to one, five or seven meters could lower the collateral damage and save lives.” (Army)

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is leading research into the aircraft’s potential to serve with Marine units. The aircraft showed promise during recent testing at Fort Pickett, Va., according to Brig. Gen. Mark Wise, head of the lab.
He characterized the aircraft as highly accurate.
“The Marine who was flying it, it was his eighth flight. So if you want to talk about intuitive capabilities, those are the kinds of things we are starting to generate,” Wise told a crowd of defense industry representatives May 1 at a conference in Norfolk, Va. (Marines)

Notice some of the points that the Army and Marines mentioned? ‘This UAV has the capabilities to be used numerous ways in Afghanistan’ and ‘intuitive capabilities’.  These are important, because you want a weapon that is useful and easy to use–or intuitive. This is really important during the fog of war, and anything to make it very simple to use in high stress situations is good.

Along those lines, I posted some of the capabilities built into the Switchblade that makes it intuitive. Check out the video below if you want to see what I mean. If this UAS can pick up movement and ID that movement with a red box in the view finder, then that will help in the ‘observe’ portion of that soldier’s OODA.

Not only that, but these things will probably evolve to have all sorts of capability built in as the technology gets smaller/better/faster (Moore’s Law). For example, a sensor package that could pick up on gun shots would be fantastic. Also, an automatic loiter system would be great as well. Ultimately, a soldier should be able to deploy the Switchblade above the battle space, and the munition would intuitively pick up the gun shots of the enemy and circle around them from a high angle–ready for the drone archer to pull the trigger for a strike. Kind of like a weaponized bird of prey.

The other point is to let those who specialize in hunting on the battlefield use these things. Or at least play around with them. I am talking about sniper teams. These folks specialize in killing the enemy or spotting the enemy from far distances. A sniper might be better trained to pick up the details in a viewfinder, and the sniper is already trained in working with others in a battle space. Which also leads to an interesting thought–imagine if a sniper team killed an insurgent with a Switchblade from 5 kilometers and at BLOS or beyond line of sight. That would be quite the shot….

Although it looks like the Army and Marines are training guys to be the UAS folks on the ground. I think it would be really cool if this weapon could be used by anyone, if they were handed the thing on the battlefield. Of course you would want specialists who can control and properly use the things. But to turn this weapon into an upgraded version of a LAW or AT-4, where entire units could use them as they see fit, should be a consideration.

On the other hand, having a UAS flying in the same air space as an Apache or Kiowa, or whatever aircraft, must be a well managed and controlled event so there are no accidents. And maybe as the technology evolves, these small UAS’s will be able to integrate with these aircraft automatically and share that air space with no problems. So in the beginning, it is wise to have some squared away folks controlling these things so they can at least hammer out the bugs and apply continuous improvement to the whole system. –Matt


Spc. Thomas Gonzales, kneeling, and Spc. Andrew Christensen, both with Troop A, 1st Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., load the coordinates into the system before launching the kamikaze UAV, also known as the Switchblade, March 27. The 4th IBCT is one of two U.S. Army brigades being fielded the drone during its deployment.




Marine Corps pursues ‘kamikaze’ drone
By James K. Sanborn
Wednesday May 16, 2012

The Marine Corps is taking steps to procure its first “kamikaze” drone in an effort to provide small units the ability to quickly strike soft targets such as IED emplacement teams.
The Switchblade, produced by California-based AeroVironment, can be guided into a target and explode on impact, almost like a hand grenade, said company spokesman Steven Gitlin.
“For the first time they will have their own organic ability to engage targets [with a UAV],” he said.
Units that identify potential targets typically have to call for air support, a multistep process.
Enemies often slip away by the time an armed unmanned aerial vehicle, attack helicopter, fighter-bomber or quick-reaction force arrive on station. Marines also compete with other allied units for mission priority or those taking enemy fire, so missions are not always filled.
“Think about it — pairing switchblade aerial munitions with an [unmanned surveillance drone like a] Raven, Wasp or Puma — a small team with those tools can know what is going on around them within about 15 klicks,” Gitlin said. “Once they identify a threat, Switchblade lets them engage that threat immediately.”
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is leading research into the aircraft’s potential to serve with Marine units. The aircraft showed promise during recent testing at Fort Pickett, Va., according to Brig. Gen. Mark Wise, head of the lab.
He characterized the aircraft as highly accurate.
“The Marine who was flying it, it was his eighth flight. So if you want to talk about intuitive capabilities, those are the kinds of things we are starting to generate,” Wise told a crowd of defense industry representatives May 1 at a conference in Norfolk, Va.
The Switchblade, weighing just 5.5 pounds, can fit into an ALICE or similar pack. When needed, a single Marine can pull it from his pack, set up a small tube containing the aircraft and automatically launch it with a remote controller. It can take flight from the ground, a vehicle, ship or aircraft. After being fired from the tube, the Switchblade’s four wings spring open — lending the aircraft its name — the prop begins spinning, and it is off with a one-way ticket.
Once a target is designated and a kill order is given, the aircraft locks in on the target and follows, even if the target moves.
Designed with low collateral damage in mind, the aircraft can also be called off at the last minute and re-engage later, Gitlin said. If the target is a sniper, for example, and children wander into the area, Switchblade can disengage and reacquire the target once civilians have moved on.
Another advantage of the Switchblade is that it uses a controller common with several of the Marine Corps’ other UAVs also produced by AeroVironment. That includes the Shadow, Wasp and Raven, a capability that matches the service’s efforts to develop a single remote control that will cut down on the weight and amount of equipment Marines carry into combat.
The need for faster reaction by armed UAVs also has led the Marine Corps to push for arming the RQ-7 Shadow. The Corps has aggressively pursued an 18-month timeline to field Shadows downrange that can carry small munitions of up to 25 pounds after commanders in Afghanistan issued an urgent-needs statement last June.
But Marines calling on the Shadow still must rely on unmanned squadrons for support. With Switchblade, they can identify targets, launch and engage on their own.
The Army, also pursuing Switchblade, awarded AeroVironment a $4.9 million contract in September and plans to send soldiers to Afghanistan with the aircraft this year.
Story here.
‘Dragon’ Brigade trains with more reliable equipment
As the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, prepares for deployment later in the spring, units are being fielded with more reliable, technically proficient equipment.
The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment; and the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment have been training on the new back-pack sized lethal miniature aerial munitions system, or LMAMS, – the Switchblade – from March 26 to 30.
This active warhead kamikaze drone is faster, lighter and more precise than previous drone systems used in the Army today. Normally used by Special Forces units, the 4th IBCT is one of only two brigades being fielded this weapons system for its deployment this year.

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Podcasts: Drone Archer Weapons–AeroVironment Talks About The Switchblade

The price for these things has yet to be determined. I was also interested to hear that these are ‘one time use’ SUAV’s. Which leads one to think did they purposely make them one time use so that the military would have to buy more of them, or is it just technically impossible to re-use the device if it has been flown?

As for further thoughts about the Switchblade, I personally think that this system should be launched out of pre-existing launchers in the US inventory. Something like the SMAW or the M-3 MAAWS would be excellent launchers to sling SUAV’s out of.  I also know that a few companies have experimented with launching SUAV’s out of artillery or from rocket pods on helicopters. To me, it just makes sense to use anti-tank/bunker buster teams as drone archers of a company/unit and utilize the tools they are already familiar with and carrying.

If there was a Switchblade that could be launched out of a M 3 MAAWS, then AeroVironment could take advantage of a global market that uses those weapon systems. Or even develop a SUAV that could be launched from a RPG launcher? The market for both of those launchers would be massive, just because they are used all over the world.

The other thing that must be looked at is control and situational awareness.  I am particularly interested in the RQ 14 Dragon Eye system, because it uses a video goggle. That is a great path to go for control and there has been some movement towards this, and especially in the civilian world. Vuzix is one company that makes a monocular that could help the soldier on the ground maintain situational awareness, and yet still fly the drone. Or you could have the gunner wear this, and the targeting specialist wear 3D or panoramic goggles. You need one guy to be on the lookout as the other guy’s attention is on flying the drone. And of course the computer used in all of this would be a smart phone or similar sized device.

What I really like about this set up is that if a team runs out of drones, they could switch back to standard munitions for their weapon system. They could put away their goggle and smart phone, and go back to being anti-tank or anti-material bunker busters if need be.  Just some thoughts on the matter, and just a recap on what I have talked about in the past. –Matt

Listen to it here.


‘Backpack-able drones’ could soon be deployed to troops on ground
By Jack Moore
Drones — officially known as unmanned aerial systems — have patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border and targeted terrorist leaders halfway across the world. Someday fighters and bombers will likely even be unmanned.
And now one company has learned how to downsize the latest weapon of war to a size small enough to fit in a soldier’s backpack.
Steven Gitlin, vice president of Aerovironment, which creates the backpackable drone — formally known as the Switchblade Agile Munition Systems — joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss how it works.
The Switchblade air vehicle launches from a small tube that can be carried in a backpack. It also transmits live color video wirelessly.

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Weapons: US Flew The Switchblade Drone Against Taliban

This is very cool. It sounds like this little drone archer weapon was used in Afghanistan just as it was intended. The article below also hinted at how the munition worked and said it was like a ‘flying shotgun’ and ‘the operator has control of how far away from the target it goes off –preselected distances,’. It will be cool to hear more reports about it’s various uses, and especially after the Army get’s their order of $4.9 million worth of Switchblades. –Matt


U.S. Flew Kamikaze Drones Against Taliban
By Tony Capaccio
Oct 18, 2011
The U.S. military has launched miniature kamikaze drones against Taliban targets and plans to deploy more next year for U.S. special operating forces, according to documents and an Army official.
The tube-launched “Switchblade” drone, made by Monrovia, California-based Aerovironment Inc. (AVAV), was secretly sent to Afghanistan for the first time last year. “Under a dozen” were fired, said Army Deputy Product Director William Nichols.
“It’s been used in Afghanistan by military personnel” and “shown to be effective,” Nichols said. The drone’s GPS guidance is made by Rockwell Collins Inc. (COL) and the warhead by Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK)
Disclosure of the Switchblade’s use in Afghanistan highlights the Pentagon’s expanding range of missions for remotely piloted aircraft. The fleet also includes broad-area surveillance aircraft such as the Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) Global Hawk, the missile-firing General Atomics Co. Predator and Reaper drones, and hand-launched short-range surveillance models, such as the Aerovironment Raven.
Nichols declined to detail the Switchblade’s targets. He said the drone’s “designed for open threats, something that’s on top of a building but you can’t hit it” with regular artillery or mortars for fear of collateral damage.
The drone is less than 24 inches long and weighs about six pounds.
“It’s a ‘flying shotgun,’” Nichols said, not a “hit-to- kill” weapon that explodes on impact.
“The operator has control of how far away from the target it goes off –preselected distances,” he said in an interview Oct. 12 at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

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Weapons: Drone Archer Weapon–US Army Awards AeroVironment $4.9 Million Contract For Switchblade Drone

To quote the Joker, ‘Now You’re Talking’. lol It’s about time the Army invests in this weapon. Like I mentioned before, every contact with the enemy could produce tons of intel using drone archer weapons, and most of all, produce some kills. Or hey, if we really get good at this game, use the drones for non-lethal means and stun the prey so we can capture and get even more intel.

Weapons like this will also allow competent drone archer teams to take advantage of the chaos of a battle. As soon as the battle starts, these things go up and the hunters begin to hunt from a flank (the air) that most enemies are not prepared for. Not only can we see from the air with these devices, but we can kill, and that puts a lot of capability in the hands of small unit leaders.

Having a drone that can not only watch enemy movements during the battle, but could actually track the enemy as they try to escape is a tool that can be used for ‘relentless pursuit‘. (h/t to Eeben for that) And this also gives a squad leader choices. They can either watch with the drone and call it back if they can’t get a kill, or use the drone as a kamikaze weapon.

This weapon also helps in the ‘locate, close with, and destroy’ mission. Because as you close with that enemy, you need to be able to see if they are staying put while maneuvering upon their elements. You can also use the drone to see any terrain or enemy positions that a ground based observer could not see. This information is vital for a squad’s decision making loop (OODA) as they are trying to gain advantage in their fight and get a win.

Which by the way….. Something we can take from the insurgents here, is their methods for suicide assaults.  Swarming is what they are depending upon–or to do a breach with one suicide bomber, then swarm in with multiple suicide assaulters fighting their way into pockets of human concentration to detonate. A drone archer team could probably take some interesting ideas from this process, as well as learn from the old Japanese Kamikaze attack strategies. I also like the idea of including these weapons within the strategic planning for an assault. Much like how you would use a SMAW team for initiating an assault, a drone archer team could have similar utility.

I also like the idea of being able to fly this thing across a canyon or to the tops of hills during a fight. I am sure most combatants have no respect for small drones at this time, thinking that they are not armed. I would love to see the expression on a booger eater’s face when they see that little thing slam right into their team and blow up. lol Or how about ten of those little drones swarming like some bees, and just plowing into targets of opportunity during a fight? And meanwhile the infantry is pouring on the lead and any other munitions to keep the enemy busy. That chaos, will provide plenty of opportunities for a drone archer team. Lots of ideas here….

I guess my intent is that I would like to see this weapon used to defeat hit and run tactics. These tactics are what insurgents depend upon for success against infantry units, and I would like to see drone archer tactics contribute to countering hit and run. In other words, if the enemy wants to expose themselves with a ‘hit’, then I want to deploy a weapon that will get them during the ‘hit’ and/or during the ‘run’ portion of that fight. We will see….-Matt



U.S. Army Awards AeroVironment $4.9 Million Contract for Switchblade Agile Munition Systems and Services
September 01 2011
AeroVironment, Inc. announced that it received a contract on June 29 from the U.S. Army Close Combat Weapons Systems (CCWS), Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO MS). The $4,907,840 contract for the Switchblade agile munition includes engineering services and operational systems for deployment with the U.S. Army.
This award represents the culmination of years of development, testing, demonstrations and customer evaluations. The prototype Switchblade system previously received Safety Confirmation and underwent Military Utility Assessment with the U.S. Army in the fall of 2010. The award is for rapid fielding of this capability to deployed combat forces.

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Building Snowmobiles: Air-Dropped Guided Mortar

Now this is neat, and it definitely falls under the Building Snowmobiles category for it’s potential impact on the battlefield. What General Dynamics has invented will help to empower the infantry unit on the ground or the developing nation that is looking for a cost effective air power capability. GD has created a smart mortar that is relatively cheap and simple to set up and could be considered the next generation, small scale JDAM.

Imagine this if you will. Mortars in all of their various calibers, are cheap and plentiful.  Countries throughout the world have thousands of mortars in their stockpiles, and the mortar has been a staple of all infantries in modern times. But now there is a way to take these dumb munitions, and make them smart. This invention opens the flood gates of innovation for today’s battlefields. With this post, I will attempt to highlight some of the possibilities and advantages of these smart mortars.

First is the cost effectiveness. As countries continue to look for cost savings and added value for their militaries due to world wide economic hardships, then ideas like this will gain favor. An example would be the JDAM and how it was a cost effective means of upgrading the cheap and plentiful stockpiles of 50o or 1000 lbs dumb bombs, resulting in a cost savings to the US Air Force. Likewise, you take a mortar that is already mass produced and cheaply made, add the ‘Roll Controlled Fixed Canard (RCFC) guidance kit, with an innovative flight-control and GPS-based guidance and navigational system‘, and now you have a smart mortar. This is much cheaper than making a mini missile or completely redesigning the whole thing.  But of course most defense companies would want to redesign the whole thing, and call their missile ‘more expensive, but better’, all for the sake of creating another business unit.

I don’t know about that ‘better’ part, and there is a strong case of why an upgraded mortar is actually ‘better’. A mortar is already designed to be lethal and lightweight, so an infantryman can carry it around out in the field. A mortar must also be durable and stable, just so it does not prematurely explode in the hands of the user. The design of the mortar also lends itself to having a stable flight path, just so an infantryman can depend upon it’s flight path and impact point for accurate bracketing.  So I like the design of the mortar, and to complement it’s design with a GPS based guidance system that you can screw into it’s nose, is awesome and simple.

Then there is the limited collateral damage by using a air delivered 60 or 80 millimeter mortar, as opposed to dropping a 500 lb or launching Hellfire missile. So this is another ‘small munitions’ capability that would help in situations where bigger is not necessarily better. This is a munition that is COIN friendly.

It is also a munition that could help to arm an air force of a developing nation.  If they have a Cessna or similar cheap aircraft, they could put a rack of these things on the wing, and now they have a cost effective means of establishing air power.  For dealing with insurgencies that are long term, a country needs any and all types of advantages it can gain, and having cheap and accurate weapons that have dual purpose, is a good thing to have. A country might not be able to afford Hellfire missiles, but most can purchase mortars, and with these simple kits and racks, they can now be in business–and for the long haul.  What good is it to give a country really expensive aircraft or weapons launching platforms, if they do not have the money to keep them running?  Smart mortars have a far better return on investment for the types of wars and internal problems countries are dealing with these days.

The next benefit is the size of the guidance kit and racks, and the availability of mortars all over the world. If I can send a crate of these RCFC’s and the smart racks (for whatever aircraft/UAV) to any place in the world in a very compact unit, then that is logistically pretty damned cool. I could send this kit to a Cessna operator in the Sudan, and have them up and running with a Air-Dropped Guided Mortar or ADM within an hour or two.

Let’s take that a step further. Anyone with a UAV of decent size, could be quickly outfitted with an ADM, and now that military or even private military group has a capability that can compete with the big boys.  Or better yet, a capability that will allow that company or military unit to have Close Air Support or CAS as an organic capability. In today’s battlefields, being self sufficient and not dependent upon really expensive and limited air power assets that may or may not be available, is a good way to go. It is one of the reasons why I keep pushing the Drone Archer concept, because technology is giving us the capability to empower small combat units with it’s own air assets.

Logistically speaking, this is a no brainer. A unit already has mortars, and the mechanisms in place to transport these things and move them around (trucks, aviation, infantry, pack mules, etc). By making mortars into a’ multi-use weapon’, then a unit can focus purely on it’s stock piles of these things and the RCFC’s to upgrade them. They could use them as mortars, or as ADM’s, all based on the need of the unit.

Right now, a military unit depends upon the logistics of other branches for the arming of air power. There are too many cogs in this logistics train, and too many things to go wrong. To put all control of the UAV, the mortars, the guidance systems, the controllers (drone archers), under the control of the unit commander, is to give them a capability they have never enjoyed before. You can either trust someone else with your logistics, or control your own logistics to win the fight. Of course you still have to have mortars and RFCS kits sent out to a unit by ‘someone’, but because these are such small items and easily transportable or easy to stockpile, then you can see the advantages here.

To take this train of thought further, you can either trust someone else with your CAS, or you can have your own CAS as a back up to win the fight. Of course a unit commander will always want as many air power options as possible for their particular fight.  But when there is no CAS available, and that unit commander is suffering casualties because of this lack of air power, then to have a capability to handle that unit’s problems out in the field is smart and necessary.  The way I see it, a unit should have it’s own on call CAS in the form of UAV’s armed with smart mortars, sensors, surveillance packages, etc.

To put more control of a unit’s fate in the hands of it’s leaders, is far better than depending upon the whims of some other unit and their air power. Besides, in places like Afghanistan, sometimes having CAS is not an option due to distance, weather, elevation or availability. These factors are all reasons why creating a more self sufficient unit equipped with cost effective air power assets, is a smart thing.

Now on to some other ideas here. These ADM’s could be mounted on all types of flying platforms. You could put them on blimps or aero-stats, and give these ‘eyes in the sky’ a lethal capability. Imagine how silent one of these mortars would be?  Dropping from that elevated position requires no charges. Or another idea, is to use charges and extend the ‘fan’ or lethal cone of the ADM?  The mortar is designed to handle the charge, and of course the RCFC would have to be designed to withstand that charge. But this has been dealt with by the land based GPS mortar systems that have been created.

Another possible use for an ADM is to just hand throw them out of any aircraft that is available.  If you have an ultralight aircraft or even a motorized para-glider, you could program the RCFC by hand, and throw them on a target.  Something like this could be done at night, and imagine how silent it would be?  After all, you are only dropping the thing, and not launching it like a missile or bullet. So if you couple a silent weapon delivery with  a silent aircraft with a low radar signature, then you have what’s called a poor man’s stealth bomber. And this kind of bomber does not cost billions to make, require years of training to operate, and attract undue attention.  The important thing here, is the ability to deliver a munition on target, without being caught or spotted.

Finally, I wanted to bring up another crucial point. The other day I was reading Time’s Battleland Blog, and came across a story about some troops who had a small UAV they were using for operations, but were not able to assist other GI’s who were in trouble. To me, this unacceptable. The rule of thumb for anyone using a drone is that ‘if you can see it, you should have the means to kill it’. Here is the quote:

It seems the only downside to having a Raven around is the feeling of helplessness it can cause when Raven-using troops see fellow soldiers in trouble too far away to help.
Blanco recalls a training mission he was on when his unit spotted fellow GIs in trouble. “Another group of soldiers came into contact with the enemy,” he says. “We were at the max distance of our aircraft…I’m going to tell you from being there and doing it, sometimes you get to see what’s on the ground and what’s going on live and then you realize it’s not a game — it’s the real deal.
“You want to jump into the fight and you can’t do it,” he says. “It’s bad when you’re looking at it at the screen and you’re looking at other soldiers getting shot at.”

Having a Drone Archer capability of being able to either drop munitions or fly the drone itself into enemy combatants, is a much needed capability. I like this focus on ‘Smalls‘ (the term the troops have coined for small drones), but we need to take it to the next level. Arming small drones with ADMs, or creating small drones that have explosives built in, are excellent tools for Drone Archers and can certainly help to exploit any opportunities on the battlefield. It would also save lives and empower the troops on the ground with a capability that was all under their control. –Matt

From Defense Industry Daily…
Application of RCFC technology to 81mm air-dropped mortars was sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, in order to provide “Tactical Class Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TCUAS)” with a low-cost weapon option for rapid fielding. In the end, however, its reach is likely to extend past small UAVs, in 2 ways.
One is the growing trend away from sole USAF control of air support, and toward a much more responsive era of “federated airpower” that includes high-end aircraft and UAVs operated by the US Air Force, and lower-tier propeller planes and small UAVs operated by the US Army and Marines. Those lower-tier options use lower-cost platforms that are far more affordable to operate, which means they can be bought and operated in numbers that provide far wider battlefield coverage for small-unit engagements. The USAF’s long-running and pervasive deprecation of relevant counter-insurgency capabilities, and strong institutional preference for high-end, expensive platforms, has left them vulnerable to lower-cost disruptive technologies that meet current battlefield needs. While the service still has a key role in maintaining American power, strategic control of the air, and high-end capabilities, the new reality involves a mix of high and low-end aerial capabilities, with some control nested closer to battlefield decision-making.
The other change will reach beyond UAVs, and into USAF and USMC aircraft. The nose-mounted RCFC guidance has now been successfully demonstrated on multiple mortar calibers, in both air-drop and tube-launch applications. The tube-launched application has been successfully demonstrated at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ in a tactical 120mm guided mortar configuration known as the Roll Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM), which uses the existing 120mm warhead and the M934A1 fuze.
Related tube-launched weapons, which already include Raytheon’s Griffin missile, and Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, are already finding their way to USMC KC-130J and Special Operations MC-130W Hercules, which are receiving roll-on/ roll-off weapon kits that can turn them into multi-role gunship support/ aerial tanker aircraft.
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General Dynamics Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Tactical UAVs with 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has successfully guided an 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar (ADM) to a stationary ground target. The guide-to-target flight demonstrations, conducted at Ft. Sill, Okla., confirmed the ability of the 81mm ADM using a novel guidance kit and fuze to provide a precision strike capability for Tactical-Class Unmanned Aircraft (TUAV). The ADM was released from a TUAV using the company’s newly developed “Smart Rack” carriage and release system that enables weaponization of any TUAV platform.

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