Army Wants to Turn Handheld Drones into Remote-Controlled Suicide Missiles

Give a soldier a grenade and he can throw it a few dozen feet. Give a soldier an RPG and he can launch a grenade hundreds of feet. But what could possibly be better than a rocket-propelled grenade? Simple: strap the grenade to a drone and hit targets up to six miles away.

Ingenious, isn’t it? This next-gen weapon promises to be the latest and greatest toy for the U.S. Army, and the best thing about it is that it doesn’t use require any new technology. All you need is a handheld drone, some duct tape, and remote-controlled explosive device to make a jury-rigged suicide drone.

But this is the U.S. military we’re talking about, and they always want the best of the best. The Army has released a pre-solicitation notifying military contractors that they’re in the market for a remote-controlled explosive suicide drone, or a Lethal Miniature Aerial Munitions System (LMAMS).

The Army’s rather demanding specifications require that the winning LMAMS design be:

  • Under five pounds
  • Require only one operator
  • Be flight ready in under two minutes
  • Fly for 15-30 minutes at a 5-10 kilometer range.
  • Be effective at day and night.

That’s just five requirements in a 17-point list, so military contractors should have their work cut out for them. The real challenge is getting all of that hardware into a five-pound drone that is also extremely fuel efficient.

There’s a hefty hunk of change waiting for the company who catches the Army’s eye. The Army has already thrown $10 million at the Switchblade, which is a similar remotely-controlled suicide drone. If you’re wondering, the reason why the Army is looking at options other than the Switchblade is because the Switchblade’s 10-minute loiter time is a bit too short for the Army’s tastes.

Guns.com is interested to see where military contractors take this new business opportunity. As it stands, there’s a spectrum that the new LMAMS has to fall on. On one end of the spectrum you have drones, which are high-endurance surveillance aircraft that are incredibly efficient and reliable. On the other end of the spectrum you have missiles, which suck at surveillance and can only be used once, but blow the smithereens out targets.

As you might expect, each side of the spectrum has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The more drone-y you make it, the easier it will be for the operator to perform reconnaissance during the flight and react dynamically. It’s also not hard to envision a soldier firing an LMAMS, realizing that the target has been compromised, and then order the LMAMS to return to base so that it can be disassembled and used again later.

Missile-y LMAMS, on the other hand, won’t be as good at surveillance or adapting to the situation. They would be much faster, much more difficult to shoot down, and they could carry a more powerful munitions.

Whatever they decide, the fact of the matter is that this is bad news for the enemies of the United States. When U.S. soldiers can easily take out enemies before they’re even within firing range, what chance do the bad guys have?