Mini-Robot Employs Fiery Darts to Neutralize IEDs

A new robotic operated countermeasures designed to disable Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from long distance are in development in Israel at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. According to Ram Fabian, director of Rafael's Land Warfare Systems, The micro-rocket system called 'Pincher' is currently in prototype phase, and could become operational next year. Pincher uses 'pencil size' rockets capable of destroying explosive charges from extended range. "The rocket causes the charge to burn, instead of explode (a process called 'deflagration'), eliminating the risk of blast, shrapnel and debris." Fabian told Defense Update. more...)

Photo above: The Pincher micro-rocket system mounted on a miniature Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV). The weapon employs a miniature remotely operated launcher, equipped with a video camera and laser pointer, and miniature pyrophoric rockers capable of defeating IEDs in a non-violent method, fired from safe distance of several tens of meters. the system can be employed inndoors and outdoors. Photo: Rafael

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Rafael's Pincher system comprises a miniature remotely operated multi-launcher system, which comes integral with a robotic platform, sensors, aiming devices, and remote control.

The eight inch (20 cm) long arrow-shaped rocket has a miniature rocket motor and stabilizing fins. Unlike kinetic projectiles fired from a gun, the arrow stores enough kinetic energy to fracture the outer envelope of the target, however, its unique pyrophoric material (an incendiary mixture comprising various metal powders such as titanium-boron-Teflon combinations), creates a thermal effect as it combusts in flames at very high temperature instantly as it penetrates the target, burning the explosive compound in a consuming it in a 'non violent' process, without causing an explosion.

Israel's Ministry of Defense Research & Development Directorate has already tested representative miniature arrows for possible use on miniature unmanned ground vehicles. Such mini UGVs could be employed in 'micro-tactical' applications, used indoors to seek targets, locate and deactivate IEDs, clearing buildings while avoiding excessive risk to soldiers and innocent human lives.

Once an IED or hazardous object is detected, the robot will be sent to engage, controlled by the EOD expert from a safe distance. As it approaches the suspected target an arrow is pointed precisely at the target. Using a robotic remotely controlled launcher assembly and the weapon's laser pointer, the pyrophoric arrow is fired from a maximum distance of several tens of meters, hitting precisely the target in the desired location. The Pyrophoric arrow self-ignite on target penetration, causing a non violent, quiet consumption of the energetic material, without risking collateral damage or blast.Operating from a safe distance, the robot itself is maintained intact and continue its mission. The system can be integrated on a dedicated, miniature robotic platform or as an an add-on upgrade for existing EOD robots.

Rafael has already fielded another stand-off counter-IED system, utilizing a high power laser, to heat an IED and cause deflagration. The system, known as Thor, was covered by Defense-Update in a previous article.

Similar techniques are suggested for use as small sub-munitions or warheads substituting kinetic flechettes munitions, creating incendiary or explosive effect over a wide area. According to the combinations of material used, pyrophoric charges could be used on land or underwater. Unlike the kinetic flechettes arrows used in direct fire area weapons, Rafael's Pyrophoric arrows could also be used as precision weapons.

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Pincher prototype demonstrated in outdoor operation. Photo: Rafael

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Pincher can be employed on robots of all sizes, including mini-UGVs that can operate indoors. Photo: Rafael

Above: a schematic description of the Pincher pyrophoric rocket. Below: an early kinematic test of a pyrophoric dart. Photo: Israel MOD Defense Research & Development Directorate - DRDD.