The US Marine Corps is in the process of acquiring portable ground-launched kamikaze drones capable of swarming over the modern battlefield to precisely takeout enemy troops, according to a new government notice.
The request was published on the government contract site Sam.Gov last month. The Marines detailed the need for an “individually operated, man-portable, anti-materiel, anti-personnel ground-launched loitering munition system” for fielding with infantry units.
The so-called “Organic Precision Fires – Infantry Light” program seeks a ground-launched drone that can be deployed with less than two troops. The request states other requirements, including it must have a range up to 12.4 miles, “capable of swarming,” and must operate for at least 90 minutes.
According to Defense News, the Marines are attempting to “reshape itself as a primarily maritime force that can distribute forces over a massive battlefield such as the South China Sea, operating inside the Chinese weapon engagement zone that may be too dangerous for many military assets to operate inside until certain key objectives can be seized or neutralized.”
AeroVironment Switchblade Drone
Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and senior fellow at The Hudson Institute, pointed out special operation forces have already used small munition drones in combat.
“The swarming idea would be, ‘How do I overwhelm the enemy’s defenses and cut off lines of escape,'” Clark explained. “If I’m a Marine unit, I’m generally going after a group of people, not just one or two guys the way SOF might be. But the idea here is to cause an area effect. You want to overwhelm defenses or cause explosions over a wider area to try and herd your adversary or cut off lines of retreat.
“You might create a blast pattern or detonate in some kind of order that herds your adversary into an area that you want to be a kill box. So, swarming for the Marine Corps would be about driving your enemy’s behavior in ways advantageous to yourself.”
Dakota Wood, a retired Marine and analyst with The Heritage Foundation, said in some ways small munition drones could be more effective than .50 caliber machine weapons.
AI-powered swarming munition drones could become the most effective weapon to takeout the enemy on the modern battlefield.
“You are looking for weapon systems that can maximize the effectiveness of finding and eliminating a target while minimizing the logistical burden on the unit,” he said. “And you want to maximize the range and any intelligence that system can deliver to you.
“If I have a .50 cal: Hugely heavy, massive logistics burden to carry around the ammo, its very effective on target but I got to get it on target first, and it’s certainly revealing my position. If I have a man-portable unmanned system that I can launch with a camera, it’s small in size so its detectability is reduced, it can send that information back to the unit and it can also hit a target with great precision: That’s an awesome capability to have.”
In 2019, Russia’s Kalashnikov Group, a Rostec subsidiary, unveiled a new high-precision suicide drone, called the KYB UAV.
KYB UAV Drone
KYB UAV Drone Approaches Target
We’ve also noted how an Israeli defense contractor a couple of years back faced allegations that it live tested a high tech suicide drone against Armenian troops in an active battle zone.
What’s becoming evident is that the modern battlefield is rapidly transforming into a high-tech arena where small drones dominate.