The Pentagon needs anti-drone bazooka-type weapons

There is no such thing as a customary anti-drone bazooka, however the Pentagon needs one. The flexibility to cease a drone with a soldier-carried system, the way in which bazookas and later rocket-propelled grenades let troopers successfully battle tanks, is important for any future battlefield. The Division of Protection is on the lookout for a brand new anti-drone weapon, at simply 100 instances the price of a few of the drones it’s more likely to shoot down.

In September, the Military plans to check a number of of those applied sciences at Yuma Proving Floor in Arizona. How, precisely, the counter-drone methods will cease the UAVs stays to be decided. 

Posted publicly in early Might 2021, the formal request is buried in a sea of jargon. It comes from the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Plane Techniques Workplace, and it’s for details about “Low-Value Floor-Primarily based Aerial Denial and Handheld (or Dismounted) Options to tell the Joint communities in response to the rising Unmanned Plane System (UAS) threats.”

In plain language, which means each department of the army is excited by discovering a approach to cease small drones, and they’re working collectively to do it.

[Related: West Point cadets are shooting down drones with cyber rifles]

A presentation shared with the contract announcement provides three examples of very best targets for the counter-drone weapon. First of those is the DJI Phantom 3, a well-liked mannequin of hobbyist quadcopter launched in 2015. These drones value round $500, and Phantom variants have been used for every part from scouting battlefield positions to dropping small grenades in battle.

The second mannequin, labeled as a typical goal for these counter-drone instruments, is the DJI S1000. Additionally constructed by Chinese language industrial drone large DJI, the S1000 octocopter is a higher-end skilled and industrial instrument, usually used for images. Like different drones of its measurement and sophistication, it may very well be outfitted to hold a small explosive payload, and at simply over $1,000, is commonly low cost sufficient for use as an expendable weapon.

On the higher finish, on the precise center of the spectrum between “non-state actors” and “state actor threats,” is the Forpost drone. This fixed-wing craft, in regards to the measurement of a small automotive, is licensed from the Searcher drone constructed by Israel’s IAI. The Forpost’s payload capability is a modest 150 kilos, however it could actually fly for as much as 18 hours and at an altitude of as much as 20,000 ft. Not like the opposite drones on this class, the Forpost can value a number of million apiece, although precise figures are arduous to return by as contracts embrace batch orders with upkeep and help included.

[Related: Watch this French laser zap drones out of the sky]

Value is on the forefront of the Pentagon’s necessities, as a result of any counter-drone system has to at the least be inexpensive sufficient that individuals are prepared to make use of it. To that finish, a handheld system should value not more than $37,000 per unit, whereas a ground-based system is priced at $15,000 or much less per drone disabled. That’s not precisely an apples-to-apples comparability; the previous refers back to the whole launcher and ammunition, whereas the latter might simply be a value per missile. But it reveals the type of calculus at play. Capturing million-dollar missiles at hobbyist quadcopters could technically be efficient, however it’s also a type of setting cash on fireplace.

As for a way the specified weapons will work, the army isn’t endorsing explosives, nevertheless it isn’t ruling them out, both. For the ground-based system, the contract specifies that the contract “doesn’t embrace floor emitted Cyber or Electrical Assault by way of radio frequency waves.” Meaning no hacking, no jammers, and no typical electro-magnetic interference.

[Related: The US military is testing a microwave anti-drone weapon called THOR]

A Q and A in regards to the contract says “Floor-based aerial denial defeat projectiles are permitted, however with limitations taken on a case-by-case foundation by way of the protection approval course of,” which suggests it may very well be a weapon that shoots drones, if the builders get approval.

Lasers are additionally permitted, underneath broader allowances for “directed vitality weapons.”

To make sure that drone destruction doesn’t danger further hurt to the individual firing at it, the contract specifies {that a} stand-off distance of 500 meters, or roughly 1,640 ft, is required. If the weapon can’t destroy a drone whereas it’s at the least that distant from an individual, the Pentagon isn’t excited by it except there’s applicable security measures.

Whereas the primary demonstration will happen in September, the army expects to repeatedly consider counter-drone weapons each six months. As drones evolve, the Pentagon is lastly working by way of the huge array of counter-drone instruments readily available. Hopefully, it would ultimately settle upon a helpful, sturdy kind, an iconic weapon that can sign “this machine stops quadcopters’’ for generations to return.

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