Grenade Drone Promises An End To Cover (Infantry), Forever

“Infantry portable loitering munitions.”
 
Excerpt:

Innovation and iteration on all scales of remotely piloted bombs exists today, with a special and new predominance in infantry-portable loitering munitions. Designed to be carried on the backs of soldiers or marines and operated by just one or two people, these weapons lean on drone controls and sensors to let human pilots steer and find the people or vehicles to destroy.

Or, as the factsheet from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems describes it, the Spike Firefly offers “lethal effect on stationary and moving targets with or without line-of-sight to operator.”

The actual device, which resembles nothing so much as an oversized electronic vape pen, includes a set of cameras suspended beneath the explosive payload, which sits beneath the two coaxial rotors. It features retractable landing gear, and can be disarmed remotely by the human operator, allowing the drone to fly as a scout, ready to blow a person up, or return safely for recharging if no suitable targets are found. Should the mission need scouting more than explosions, a second battery can replace the explosive payload and double the Firefly’s flight time, from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Grenade Drone Promises An End To Cover, Forever

Forbes · by Kelsey D. Atherton · May 7, 2020

The Spike Firefly loitering munition is a flying grenade with drone parts.

(Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)A loitering munition is a hybrid offspring of cruise missiles and drones. It is a grenade with rotors, a bomb with wings, and a bad day for somebody down the line. This week, the Israel Defense Forces announced a purchase of Spike Firefly Loitering Munitions, a six-and-a-half pound flying bomb built into a weird drone.

In terms of size and function, the Firefly is essentially a longer-range, more accurate grenade.

Like a grenade, the point of the Firefly is to put an explosion somewhere immediately useful but far from the person launching it. The flying bomb can travel up to 1,600 feet in an urban setting and almost 3,300 feet in open terrain, traveling at a speed of 36 mph. The Firefly’s explosive payload, a 350 gram “omnidirectional fragmentation warhead,” contains almost twice as much explosive as the standard M67 Fragmentation Grenade used by the U.S. military.

That puts the Firefly on the smaller end of loitering munitions, in part thanks to the advances in compact electronics over the past several decades. The first loitering munition, revealed in 1990, was the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Harpy, a winged missile designed to hunt anti-aircraft radar stations, and then finding one, arm itself and dive down, destroying it.

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Innovation and iteration on all scales of remotely piloted bombs exists today, with a special and new predominance in infantry-portable loitering munitions. Designed to be carried on the backs of soldiers or marines and operated by just one or two people, these weapons lean on drone controls and sensors to let human pilots steer and find the people or vehicles to destroy.

Or, as the factsheet from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems describes it, the Spike Firefly offers “lethal effect on stationary and moving targets with or without line-of-sight to operator.”

The actual device, which resembles nothing so much as an oversized electronic vape pen, includes a set of cameras suspended beneath the explosive payload, which sits beneath the two coaxial rotors. It features retractable landing gear, and can be disarmed remotely by the human operator, allowing the drone to fly as a scout, ready to blow a person up, or return safely for recharging if no suitable targets are found. Should the mission need scouting more than explosions, a second battery can replace the explosive payload and double the Firefly’s flight time, from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Besides direct human control, Rafael says the drone can fly autonomously by pre-set waypoints, though it is unclear if the Firefly will detonate without human direction.

Like other small drones, there’s a possibility that the Firefly can be mounted, launched, and operated from other vehicles, essentially giving armored personnel carriers robotic scouts that can explode on contact with the enemy.

It’s a collection of novel features in a tight, deadly package.

Rafael promises that the Firefly has revolutionary potential, saying in a promotional PDF it will “make obsolete the old infantry tactic of firing and maneuvering to eliminate an enemy hiding behind cover.”

Such predictions have been made countless times in the sales pitches for new weapons. One even dates as far back as the Kettering Bug, the 1918 aerial torpedo ancestor to both cruise missiles and drones. The impact is there, but unless loitering missiles become as abundant as buildings and boulders, don’t expect cover to lose any value anytime soon.

Forbes · by Kelsey D. Atherton · May 7, 2020

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