An innovative new weapon may mark the end of days when insurgents can run away, hide from or even go toe-to-toe with ground troops.
The switchblade, developed by military contractor AeroVironment, was born out efforts to take drone technology beyond reconnaissance missions and the massive Reaper or Predator assault aircraft being used in Pakistan and elsewhere. What the researchers came up with was a drone that easily fits into a backpack and could also explode on impact.
The way it works is somewhat similar to mortar artillery in that it's launched from a tube. However, it can hover in the air before homing in on an enemy target. And, should a soldier change his mind, it can be called off at the last minute.
It's been described as "a smart, remote-control grenade with wings" and a "Kamikaze drone." I'd say it's, more than anything else, a miniature guided missile. Whatever you want to call it, the military plans to make sure soldiers are armed with it soon, according to a report by the AFP.
What makes the weapon so deadly is a combination of cutting-edge technologies packed into a missile-shaped capsule that weighs no more than 2 pounds. Inside is a highly-precise guidance and command system and a mechanism that enables explosive material to detonate on impact. A small motor powers the device, enabling it to send real-time video of targets on the ground so soldiers can lock in on the enemy.
"Upon confirming the target using the live video feed, the operator then sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it and lock its trajectory onto the target," the company told AFP.
One of the Switchblade's obvious advantages is that with such unprecedented maneuverability and versatility, soldiers can more effectively take out targets and do so without having to put themselves in positions where they are more vulnerable. And with this kind of precision, it also reduces the likelihood of collateral damage, which has been an ongoing criticism of the unmanned drone missions in which bombs are dropped on sites where civilians may reside.
According to a report in Wired: the Army awarded AeroVironment a $4.9 million contract on July 29 for “rapid fielding” of an unspecified number of Switchblades to “deployed combat forces.”
So before too long, they might start seeing some action in Afghanistan.
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