New Remote Warfare: Smaller, Better, Deadlier?
Remote-control warfare is set to enter a new phase with the arrival of miniaturized bombs carried by smaller, cheaper drones. The move was perhaps to be expected, given the astonishing rise to US military prominence of these aircraft. Until now, larger, fighter-jet-sized drones, such as the Predator and Reaper, have been the vehicle for attacks.
Now 41% of the US military's 18,000 or so aircraft are remotely piloted. This growth has been accompanied by growing criticism over civilian deaths. One of the military's answers is to develop smaller weapons for more precise strikes. So to last month's Farnborough International Airshow in the UK, where US aerospace firm Raytheon showcased its Small Tactical Munition, a 6-kilogram bomb just half a metre long that is designed for smaller drones, such as the 3.4-metre-long Shadow. It "offers extreme precision", Raytheon claims, and "significantly reduces the risk of collateral damage", owing to the small blast radius of its guided warhead.
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