The introduction of remote video links, enabling operators to
monitor the UAV's payload view in real time, enables users to
employ weaponized UAVs more flexibly and with improved confidence.
Network enabled systems employing distributed command and control
elements, with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
(ISR) and armed airborne assets (either separate platforms or
integrated into a single unit) benefit from progress made with
UAVs and precision guided weapons. Typical weapons which could
be adapted for UAV use include the Israeli LAHAT,
designed by IAI subsidiary MBT to meet requirements of the Israeli
armored corps. As early as 2004 this weapon was proposed for
testing with US Hunter UAVs. Lahat utilizes the semi-active
laser homing guidance method to accurately home in on targets
from a distance beyond 10 km. Fitted with a shaped charge multi-purpose
warhead, LAHAT can engage targets marked by laser designator
mounted on the launching platform or by an indirect designation,
from another unit located closer to the target. Each missile
weighs about 13 kg and a complete launcher, with the four missiles
weighs only 75kg, significantly less than any alternative weapon.
The laser Guided SPIKE
was developed by the Weapons Division of the Naval Air Warfare
Center, US Navy, with assistance of DRS Technologies. Originally
designed as a man-portable weapon for the Marines and the Navy’s
special operations force, Spike fills a critical niche for a
low-cost, lightweight guided weapon for U.S. ground forces.
also considered for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and a
force-protection weapon to defend surface ships from small-boat
swarms or light aircraft. The missile uses Semi-Active Laser
(SAL) seeker to engage laser designated targets from a distance
of two miles. Each Spike missile weighs 5.3 lb (2.5 kg) and
is 25 in.
( cm) long. The missile performed its first controlled flights
in 2005. Spike missile is designed to be used on medium and
lightweight UAVs. The missile has already been tested with the
DRS Sentry HP drone at Eglin AFB, Florida, as part of US Air
Force UAV Battlelab evaluation.
Another type of lightweight weapon considered for UAVs is
the 2.75" Hydra 70 rocket. In 2005, four 2.75-inch rockets
were fired from Vigilante Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) testbed,
demonstrating the weaponization potential of rotary wing UAVs.
The tests evaluated the stability and flight control flight
control adjustments necessary to compensate for excessive loads
during the weapon's firing. On these tests the Vigilante was
controlled from a nearby UH-1 manned helicopter. Such tests
will provide important data for the integration of Advanced
Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS II) with future rotary
APKWS II is intended to fill an aviation systems weapons gap
between the Hellfire Missile and Unguided Hydra-70 2.75-Inch
Rocket, introducing an affordable, lightweight, precision aerial
guided rocket APKWS II weighs about 13 kg, integrating strap-down
laser seeker (fixed in the wing roots) and guidance section
onto the Hydra-70 Rocket, it will be effective against soft
and lightly armored targets as well as urban operations. In
April 2006 BAE Systems was contracted for the two year $45.7M
system design and development phase, teamed with Northrop Grumman
and General Dynamics. Production is expected to begin in 2008.
The new design uses existing or new production rockets, fitted
with a mid-body guidance approach that employs BAE Systems'
Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS), the
same element is also used in the Army’s Precision Guided
Mortar Munitions Program.
APKWS II will utilize the Hydra Universal Rail Launcher (HURL),
a lightweight four-rail launcher originally developed for the
Comanche attack helicopter but modified for use with UAVs. Designed
as a 'smart rocket launcher', HURL can be linked to on-board
avionics through Mil-Std-1760 and Mil-Std-1553 interfaces.
Lockheed Martin also developed a version of 2.75" laser
guided rocket called Direct
Attack Guided Rocket (DAGR) designed to be fully compatible
with the Hellfire II system and 229 smart launcher system, therefore
increasing the launcher load-out by up to four times. The rocket
was flight tested in February 2007 and is expected to complete
testing in 2007.
The Russian company Basalt is offering the TBG-29 rocket propelled
weapon, loaded with thermobaric warhead, to equip light aircraft
and UAVs operating in close support operations. The weapon is
designed to annihilate troops on open terrain, in trenches,
field shelters, and inside buildings and destroy lightly armored
and soft skinned targets. The round is fired from grenade launchers
(RPG-29 and RPG-29N). Aircraft,
helicopters or UAVs with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,000 kg
or higher which can also carry the multiple launch rocket systems
loading up to 7 rockets each. The 105mm diameter rocket measures
695mm in length, and weighs 6.7 kg. It can be fired at targets
ranging from 50 to 2,000 meters. In enclosures, the thermobaric
charge is effective within a volume of 300 square meters or
at a radius of 10 meters from the detonation point, in open
terrain. When fired near windows gun-ports etc, the detonation
will kill any person within one meter from the detonation point
or two meters, when fired at troops in trenches.
Switchblade is another weapon, developed by AeroVironment, Inc.
It is designed for hand, tube or aerial launch, and could provide
the warfighter with a "magic bullet" delivering 'instant'
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) on Beyond
Line-of-Sight (BLOS) targets within minutes. Designed as an
expendable system, Switchblade will also have an option to carry
a small explosive charge to enable rapid prosecution of selected
targets. The miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform
can either glide or propel itself via quiet, electric propulsion,
providing real-time video for information gathering, targeting,
or feature/object recognition.
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