Bombs? Who Needs Bombs? New Kamikaze Suicide UAV Combines “Eye in the Sky” with “Hellfire”

 

By this point in the second decade of the 21st Century, unmanned aerial vehicles armed with precision weapons are not strange or unusual. Indeed, they have so profoundly impacted the popular psyche as to have had pop songs written about them. However, these systems generally make a distinction between the aerial vehicle and the ordnance itself (e.g., an MQ-9 Reaper and its AGM-114 Hellfire missile payload). Then, what is unusual is a weapon which combines these two systems into one, a device that is both UAV and missile, both bomb and surveillance drone. Israeli news outlet iHLS reports on a device that is exactly that: The UVision Hero-400EC, a loitering reconnaissance drone that can fly directly into an enemy position to deliver a 10 kilogram explosive warhead.

The Hero-400EC is not the first so-called “loitering munition”, nor the first to have been released by UVision. In 2013, the company announced its Hero-400 drone, which carries an 8kg warhead and possesses a 4 hour loiter time. The larger, more capable Hero-400EC joins other stablemates in the UVision lineup as well, ranging from the 6lb Hero-30 to the 200lb+ Hero-900.

The future of infantry combat is one that will necessarily require harnessing innovative and out of the box ideas to add not only capability to the infantry directly, but responsiveness to their support assets. The idea of a kamikaze-style UAV that provides reconnaissance and then destroys itself by colliding with the target directly may seem a bit silly, but if it is deployable in a way that is less expensive and/or more responsive than current missile-laden UAVs and manned aircraft, it could find a niche as a precision alternative to more organic infantry support weapons like mortars or Javelin missiles.

The key selling point of a system like this appears to be the ability to perform reconnaissance on targets organically with the ordnance, all the way to delivery – and, perhaps more importantly, to recall the ordnance and cancel the attack at any point before detonation. Versus a conventional bomb or missile attack, this system would potentially provide more surety of positive target identification, and a lower rate of blue-on-blue or blue-on-green incidents.

 

Thanks to Kevin for the tip!



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Raptor Fred

    Fight wars on your couch.

    • b0x3r0ck

      Pretty much current UAV pilots can run a few bombing missions a day and still have time to pickup the kids from practice.

      • Zeropoint

        When you need to kill some foreign kids at three but you’ve got to pick up your own kids at six.

  • TheLordRegent

    An updated version of the Harpy drone.

    • RogUinta

      Is that my mother-in-law with a motor shoved up her butt?

  • #TheResistance

    I supposed this would fall under “Destructive Device” for the NFA…

    • FrenchieGunner

      Not if you put a Sig Brace on it

  • Giolli Joker

    Are these supposed to be launched by bombers/fighter-jets?

    • Nah, you just chuck ’em out the back-a the pickup an’ let ’em figure it out on their own.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

    • Iggy

      I read a short story the other day about a smart bomb that was given utilitarian ethics programming. Went sent to target a dictator instead of blowing up, it hacked the country’s systems, prompted his second in command to launch a coup (imprison the dictator) and implement democratic reforms.

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        So they turned a bomb into a CIA clone?

        How long did the democratic reforms put in place by a coup leader last?

        • ostiariusalpha

          Depends on where the story is set. If it’s Europe or E. Asia, the reforms could go a good 20-30 years before any serious institutional crisis pops up.

        • Iggy

          Well it was sci-fi so who knows, also I’d argue it did the opposite of the CIA’s modus oprendi, they’re better know for installing the dictator after his predecessor tries implementing reforms.

      • Edeco

        Bleh utilitarian ethics.

        • Iggy

          I’m not a huge fan of utilitarianism either, it was just funny that the bomb decided based on it’s programming that the best way to ‘do good’ based on net benefit of fulfilling it’s orders was to make a move that required killing no one, because it also decided it could do the most good by staying ‘alive’ as well.

  • EC

    NLOS (non-line of sight) loitering missiles have already been around for some time now.

    The Israelis have their 25km range Spike NLOS missile. That’s been around since the 1980s.

    The Chinese have their newer CM-501G, with a 70km range. They also have access to the smaller AFT-10, giving them a 10km range NLOS loitering missile.

    We did have a NLOS missile program, but it didn’t work out. We just couldn’t get the technology to work right and the loitering feature ran into even more problems. At least the Israelis and the Chinese have shown that it is possible to pull off.

    • vwVwwVwv

      if israel builds it you have them

      • EC

        Sort of… I mean if you think about it our American tanks are actually quite backwards in terms of technology except for fire control and armour. We’ve been slow to pick up APSs (Israel/Russia), a better gun (Germany), more advanced rounds (Germany), and other advanced features. Some of that stuff is planned for the next modernization of the M1, but we’ll see how that pans out.

        I mean heck, we haven’t even gotten around to gun-launched ATGMs yet like the Israeli LAHAT. Russian and Chinese tanks are all capable of firing 125mm ATGMs at us from beyond the range of our 120mm guns.

        To my knowledge only the British have used the Spike NLOS… maybe they’ve been trialed by us but they certainly haven’t been deployed.

        • Get over it Fanbois

          You can blame the NMH syndrome and Military corporate welfare for why we don’t have these things.

          The last time procurement did anything smart was adopting the Piranha III, modifying it for the US Army and renaming it the Stryker.

        • vwVwwVwv

          hey, my answer would be political and it is not wanted here,
          your guns had a problem but the problem is now
          not in charge, he is a retired problem now.
          israel has NO heavy industry not
          the resources, no the
          manpower to produce anything in really great numbers.
          there is a reason why enemy’s of the USA call Israel
          often USS-Israel and it’s not completely wrong

        • some other joe

          The US does have German tank guns and ammo and pioneered gun-launched ATGMs in the Shillelagh. And decided against them, based on then SOTA guidance systems. They’re still a bad idea; a rack of Javelins (or a longer range, possibly NLOS, successor) on the back of the turret is a far better idea.
          And the aforementioned Switchblade….
          But we’re not considering the risk involved in fighting peer/near-peer forces and the EM emissions all of this tech produces. Just like a TOW, all you have to do is schwack the controller and the munition or drone is nullified.

          • EC

            We don’t use the longer, higher-velocity German L/55 guns for our tanks and stick with the shorter German L/44.

            We lack many of the newer German rounds and are only beginning to work on our own multi-purpose equivalent.

            2.5km Javelins are not a replacement for 4km-8km gun-launched ATGMs. External racks are not optimal because they need to be reloaded from outside of the tank.

          • FactChecker90803

            Even though range of the FGM-148 is officially 2500 meters , rounds have hit targets at 4500+ meters.

          • EC

            That’s akin to saying that I could aim a tank cannon 45 degrees up and hit a target through indirect fires (which the Israelis train to do). Or like pointing to the British 5km hit.

            It’s possible, sure. But hardly of reliable tactical use. For all intents and purposes a Javelin is limited to 2.5km range when firing from a ground-based platform.

          • FactChecker90803

            The limiting factor in the Range of javelin is it’s launch unit, the new improves unit will remedy it’s 2.5km range

          • EC

            My understanding was that the 4km range came from very controlled tests by the manufacturer and more or less created as a marketing gimmick. There is no Javelin-ER missile in service, nor are there current plans to field one.

            I mean there are better missiles to use than the Javelin. The M2, for example, can fire off the TOW family of missiles. It has a much longer range, and is capable of a top-attack profile as well.

            The problem is the same however… that externally mounted missiles need to be reloaded from outside of the vehicle, greatly decreasing the fire rate of such missiles and increasing the vulnerability of both the vrew and vehicle. Gun-launched missiles can be fired at essentially the same rate as any other shell (tradeoff of SACLOS being the pre-launch lock-time).

        • Phillip Cooper

          I suppose you’ve never heard of the Sheridan light tank? It used ATGMs back in the 70s/80s. The original M60 did as well.

          • EC

            Sure I know of the Sheridan, and how we pretty much want to bring it back from the dead with the MPF program.

            It’s also pretty well-known that the Sheridan, while fulfilling a much-needed role in our arsenal, was not that great of a tank.

          • Phillip Cooper

            It was designed as an air transportable, air droppable, tank (as in, defying the Maxim for Marginally Effective Mercenaries #11- “Anything is air-droppable… once”). In that regard it did well enough.

            Unfortunately, when you need a tank, you need a REAL. Damn. TANK!

          • EC

            I think it was more that the 152mm low-velocity gun just wasn’t cutting it.

            You see the same thing with the BMD-4’s 100mm gun. Though you might think it to be the equivalent of an older tank’s 105mm gun, that isn’t the case because it has much lighter construction. The result is that it can’t shoot APFSDSs, only HE-Frag rounds.

            In the same way, the best the Sheridan could do was 152mm HEAT. Not ideal against a MBT.

            Both vehicles aren’t meant for fighting enemy armour or heavier units. But what they could do was to allow light infantry to quickly overrun other light infantry. Or to at least stand a better chance if faced with something heavier. What infantryman would say no to a few extra armoured field guns that are capable of clearing out hardpoints better than a rifleman can?

            One interesting development has been the Russian Sprut-SD and SDM1. It’s essentially a lightly armoured vehicle that can’t take many hits, but carries around a full MBT gun. Air-droppable and amphibious to boot, it can bring anti-tank capabilities to a light infantry force.

            The cancelled M8 program was also hoping to do something similar, with a smaller 105mm gun (meaning that taking on MBTs frontally would be a bad idea). It’s one of the contenders for the new MPF program.

        • FactChecker90803

          Let’s see, the 120mm fun on the M1A1 and M1A2 is based on the Rheinmettal 120mm L44, but with an Watervliet Arsenal designed and build modified barrel that increases the resistance of the barrels to fracture and fatigue allowing for higher velocity ammo to be utilized. Does rounds are WAY MORE ADVANCED AND CAPABLE then any other 120mm out there!!. The latest German DM33 can penetrates 22 inches at 2000 meters, something the M829A1 did this back in the late 1980s it was able to penetrate 24 inches at 1000 meters and

          • EC

            The German reliance on Tungsten penetrators isn’t a matter of technology, but simply that they find the use of DU weapons morally and politically distasteful to use. Additionally, it creates hazards even for friendly forces in the form of dust and fragments.

            As for many of your other facts, they seem to be made out of jumbled internet speculation. The M1A3, for example, is simply a dream at this point, with development planned to start somewhere from 2021-2029. That pretty much means that the design for it doesn’t yet exist, and we all know how these weapons programs go (see FCS, GCV). Our current M1A2 SEPv3 program will have no substantial increase in lethality (except for combining HEAT/HE as one shell) or protection. It is planned to be followed up by the M1A2 SEPv4 somewhere beyond 2020, and if we have anything left over in our budget then the M1A3 might finally begin production. So really pointing to anything at all related to the M1A3 as proof of our tank superiority is quite stretching it.

            The targeted missiles that you mentioned are, of course, all failures. They were never successful programs. Like the FCS and GCV programs, nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars.

            Simply put, as our tanks exist now and as they will exist in the near future, they lack many of the advanced tools that other countries have invested in their tanks. This is likely just a matter of doctrine than anything else; our singular focus on airpower has meant that a slew of bad decisions have been made regarding our ground forces, usually centring on what the cheapest route happens to be.

          • FactChecker90803

            But still the German APFDS and MP HE rounds are inferior to the M829A2, A3, A4 and the AMP rounds, no matter the Germans preference for so called cleaner yet inferior Tunfsron.

          • EC

            I would say that the German DM11 HE-MP round was a pretty good contender against our AMP, with likely politics playing a role in the selection of the AMP. This is especially likely given how the DM11 actually existed as a finished product at the time of selection, while ATK’s AMP was essentially a prototype. I fully expect to see all the problems associated with the military buying into a prototype pop up again with the AMP as it has with many other projects.

  • USMC03Vet

    Firearms not organic explosives.

  • vwVwwVwv

    swarms of such uav’s will be the near future

    • That depends entirely on how much they cost and how quickly they can be produced. As was proven quite thoroughly by the idiotic cancellation of the F-22 program, it doesn’t matter how cool something is if you only have a few dozen of them to fit a mission profile that requires several hundred to be effective.

      • vwVwwVwv

        yes

  • Tassiebush

    Not sure how expensive these are to field but it seems like these could be fielded in very large volumes. In a conventional conflict I imagine that the training for these could be a very simple matter and huge numbers could be deployed by a fairly low skilled but large number of controllers. If they could fly high and fast enough maybe they’d also be able to function as air defences as well.

  • 22winmag

    Firearms not wedding party eliminators.

    • RocketScientist

      Whats the difference between a terrorist training camp and a children’s hospital?

      I don’t know man, I just fly the drone.

    • bernardg

      have you been to that wedding party? It’s da bomb! I’m having a blast.

  • 2wheels

    Ordnance, not ordinance!

    • Darrell

      This. Ordnance is weaponry. Ordinance is regulations.

    • Thank you for catching my stupid mistake.

  • Major Tom

    Yeah I think this is headed to court, General Dynamics and/or Raytheon (I forget which) are going to have a field day over the “Hellfire” name.

  • RSG

    Although I’ve been saying for years that a system like this needs to be developed, I had no idea that it had. I always imagined a man portable platform that could replace the Javelin.

    • CommonSense23

      The switchblade has been around for a while ago now.

  • TechnoTriticale

    re: …and, perhaps more importantly, to recall the ordinance and cancel the attack at any point before detonation.

    The article might have mentioned how they propose to perform recoveries without blowing up any recovery equipment and/or team. I don’t see any wheels. Parachute?

  • Jim Slade

    Not if, but when…
    How long ’til some asshat buids a flying pipe bomb out of RC hobby parts and pvc pipe and the Secret Service gets to decide the future of the commercial drone business?

    • FarmerB

      I’ve often wondered why the RPG-7 doesn’t come to guided missiles? Really, if somebody could produce a cheap, effective semi-guided missile that could be a thousand bucks (at most) and produced by undeveloped countries. That would change the military landscape big time. Just imagine what most public buildings (parliaments, palaces, etc) would look like if the political leaders could be attacked from 1Km away with these things – washing around the world in numbers like the RPG? (and aircraft would be in real danger as well).

  • darrell_b8

    Wonder how they’d work in “Ch-raq’? gives ‘instant karma’ a whole new meaning…

  • gunsandrockets

    Functionally, what you have here is a guided missile with all the advantages of a manned kamikaze weapon.

    Man in loop piloting, so it is not just a brainless guided-missile. It can abort the mission, and return and recover at base for eventual reuse, also unlike an ordinary guided-missile.

    It seems the primary advantage of a system like this over a conventional UAV carrying Hellfire missiles would be in a conventional war environment . Surge capability would be greater than a Predator UAV and losses from enemy air defenses would be more acceptable.

  • FarmerB

    Yeah – not heard of those – thanks. What I was thinking about in my comment above, but of course, a bit too high-tech, high priced and first world, but something like that.

  • longfisher

    I have long had a problem with armed drones. This may not be an argument that all accept. And, it may be way too late to even hope that an argument like this will have any relevance as the field seems to have moved beyond this consideration.

    But there should be no doubt that a drone is a tactical weapon capable of creating massive, negative blow-back on a strategic level.

    It’s a terror weapon the way it’s currently used. And, a terrorized population produces terrorists.

    Makes no sense to me to push a stick into a hornet’s nest. And, that’s exactly what these weapons do, especially when used in countries with which we’re not at war and especially when the general public is subject to being erroneously blown to bits.

    Ask yourself what you would do if you arrived at your son’s wedding to find everyone dead when no one at all was a combatant. Happens way too often with these weapons.

    Me, I’d immediately seek revenge.

    • ozzallos .

      I’ll accept your argument when you accept this happens with every sort of weapons system. It happens to operator guided drones. It happens to vehicals piloted by a real person. Most of these failures are intel based. It’s not as if a pilot if going to get out of his jet to check to see if that’s a wedding or not. Okay, you don’t like drones. Got it. But you can’t tell me short of hard, linked facts that mis-targeting is any higher than a manned system.

      • longfisher

        Thank you for such a reasonable reply. Such replies are all to rare on these comments sections.

        But of course, I don’t have or have access to such facts on mis-targeting.

        LF

  • Kurt Ingalls

    ……just a cheaper Hellfire….DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  • Sledgecrowbar

    Or… or… OR… just have two wings, because that has worked fine for a hundred years.