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US Army to fly 'kamikaze' drones

Published Oct 18, 2011 04:12am


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The US currently uses larger Predator and Reaper drones to hunt down suspected militants in Pakistan and elsewhere.—Reuters photo

WASHINGTON: A miniature “kamikaze” drone designed to quietly hover in the sky before dive-bombing and slamming into a human target will soon be part of the US Army's arsenal, officials say.

Dubbed the “Switchblade,” the robotic aircraft represents the latest attempt by the United States to refine how it takes out suspected militants.

Weighing less than two kilos, the drone is small enough to fit into a soldier's backpack and is launched from a tube, with wings quickly folding out as it soars into the air, according to manufacturer AeroVironment.

Powered by a small electric motor, the Switchblade transmits video in real time from overhead, allowing a soldier to identify an enemy, the company said in a press release last month.

“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,” it said.

The drone then flies into the “target,” detonating a small explosive.

The California-based firm also said the drone can be called off at the last moment, even after a kill mission has been ordered. That feature provides troops with “a level of control not available in other weapon systems,” it said.

The United States currently uses larger Predator and Reaper drones to hunt down suspected militants in Pakistan and elsewhere.

The robotic planes fire powerful Hellfire missiles and drop heavy bombs that can cause civilian casualties and extensive damage, which has fueled popular anger with the United States in Pakistan.

In the war in Afghanistan, US and coalition troops fighting the Taliban can call in artillery fire or air strikes from fighter jets and attack helicopters.

But the heavy firepower has been blamed by Afghan leaders for claiming the lives of innocent civilians and strained US relations with Kabul.

The Switchblade, however, is touted as a way to avoid killing bystanders.

“Flying quietly at high speed the Switchblade delivers its onboard explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral damage,” the company said.

The US Army in June approved a $4.9 million contract for AeroVironment to supply the new drones as soon as possible. Officials have not said how many Switchblade drones were ordered or when the robotic weapons would make into the hands of US forces.

Human rights groups have raised concerns that the use of drones by the CIA has allowed the conduct of a secret assassination campaign abroad without public scrutiny and little oversight by lawmakers in Congress.


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Comments (9) Closed

Rbshank Oct 18, 2011 04:50pm
I think this is a great weapon to fight terrorist all around the world, without any civilian causality. We need to use this to get rid of all terrorist who r hiding in the Afghan/Pakistani mountains & cause great terror all around the world. Drones are most affective & efficient way of eliminating terror.
RKN Oct 18, 2011 05:07pm
All those who kill innocents suspecting them as terrorists, without giving them a chance to stand trial are also terrorists. Remember, Violance of any nature results in more violance. One should also pray these drons are not availabele to these so called terrorist groups in the black market.
elahi Oct 18, 2011 06:31pm
there is a picture of something similar on GIZMODO website.
Parvez Oct 18, 2011 08:29pm
I look forward to the application of this drone technology in Pakistan....
adnan shahidullah Oct 18, 2011 10:52pm
i saw one of this family in the movie BODYGUARD... i dont think it will work in the rough terrrain of waziristan and the distance involved between the operator and the drone, also it can easily be gunnned down from any small weapon, including stones...
Sandip Oct 19, 2011 03:01am
Its easy to build :-) Someone who has passed 10th grade and knows how to do google search can build it. In canada lot of school projects are around making similar machines that fly (Really) what you need to do is make motor little more powerfull, add camera and add explosive to that and wallah you have ultimate killing machine that any grade 10 gradutate can make.
shahzad Oct 19, 2011 12:11pm
It sounds like a simple/ low tech machine... What are the chances of terrorists start using this technology before US???
nb Oct 19, 2011 05:12pm
This approach is good but a particular theory both in Physics and in Mathematical Statistics comes in its way. Read the chapter Theory of Error. There are two objectives. Probability of hitting terrorist should be high and simultaneous probability of hitting civilian should be low. You can neither make first one 100 percent, nor make the second one ZERO percent. Some civilians will always get killed as long as terrorists exist.
sami Oct 19, 2011 10:07pm
if YOU have a gun or planing to buy a gun,you are dangerous but if i have a gun its my right,no wonder this world is getting more and more insecure & unsafe every day cz of these so called civilized big powers.