The U.S. Air Force Rapid Acquisition Cell launched a urgent procurement program for lethal mini-drones, aiming to field such weapons with Special Operations command units in 2012. The weapons to be delivered under the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS), will offer the warfighter a portable, non-line-of-sight precision strike capability against individual stationary or moving individuals, ensuring high precision effect from covert positions, with a very low risk of collateral damage.
In December 2010 the air force selected three contractors to provide provide weaponized systems for a test series, planned for April 2011. The companies are Aerovironment, IAT and Textron Defense Systems. The Air Force plans to begin procurement of such weapons as early as 2012. Two representative systems in this category are a new ‘Point and Toss’ mini-drone from IAT and the Switchblade developed by Aerovironment, presumably under ‘Project Anubis‘.
The Air Force expects the new weapon to weigh around 3 lbs (1.36 kg). The user will also carry the integrated operating console and communications unit, weighing additional 3 pounds. The entire system could deploy and be ready to fire within 30 seconds. Once launched, the system should be capable to acquire a man-size target at the system’s combat range, in less than 20 seconds, flying at an altitude of 100 meter above ground. If conditions for attack are not met, the MAV will be able to loiter over the target for up to 30 minutes. For the terminal phase, the MAV is designed to hit target within 3.28 ft (1 meter) radius, at maximum speed of 80 – 100 mph (35-44m/sec). This accuracy matches the warhead’s effectiveness to kill or incapacitate personnel in the open or on soft skinned vehicles, within a two meter radius from the point of detonation.
The Switchblade is designed to provide the warfighter with a “magic bullet”. It can rapidly provide a powerful, but expendable miniature flying Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) package on a Beyond Line-of-Sight (BLOS) target within minutes. This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition. The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range. The Switchblade is fully scalable and can be launched from a variety of air and ground platforms.