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Are tube-fired “suicide” drones the new pocket artillery that will give dismounted troops a smaller footprint and a longer reach? Developers of lethal miniature aerial munition systems certainly think so as they gear up for a new U.S. Army program set for fiscal 2016.
However, others doubt that the LMAMS will have any impact on military operations following a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to Defense News a lightweight unmanned aerial system kitted with a 40mm warhead, the LMAMS offers the infantry something it never had with traditional mortar rounds: the ability to reconnoiter an enemy target before delivering a quick, precision airstrike. Indeed, after the Army deployed 75 of these expendable systems to Afghanistan in late 2012, theater commanders quickly demanded more from the Rapid Equipping Force.
The current LMAMS solution, the 6-pound Switchblade, is produced by AeroVironment, which declined to comment on its role in the field. However, an Army official at the Close Combat Weapons Systems Project Office — the PEO Missiles and Space office that awarded the company two LMAMS contracts totaling more than $10 million — said that “soldiers and leaders have readily embraced it as an invaluable tool.”
The main draw, the official said, is Switchblade’s precision and its ability to limit non-combatant casualties.
“The ability to wave off a target after launch is unique to this weapon over almost all other weapons,” he said. “Operators can abort a mission if the situation changes after launch, engage a secondary target or safely destroy it without inflicting casualties or collateral damage to property.”
With this in mind, the Army is looking at an LMAMS program of record and will be considering additional systems besides Switchblade.