The innumerable caves, crags, and hiding spots dotting the Afghan mountains render conventional tactics useless. So rather than play reactionary whack-a-mole with insurgents, our Special Forces may soon deploy these radio-controlled, explosive-laden planes to find and eliminate targets in one deadly fell swoop.
Developed by Textron Defense Systems, the BattleHawk Squad Level Loitering Munition is a carbon-fiber bomb that can patrol an airspace before acquiring and eliminating targets. The tube-launched drone is small enough to be transported in a backpack, though its 40mm high-fragmentation charge makes the system quite deadly against personnel and unarmored vehicles. A pair of HD digital cameras mounted in the BattleHawk's nose allow the pilot to guide the munition when searching for targets at speeds up to 60MPH. With a 30 minute flight time, the BattleHawk can either be controlled directly by the pilot or be pre-programmed to fly a specific path. When it does find a target, an onboard target detection and tracking system handles the terminal guidance maneuvers, even if the target is moving.
"The BattleHawk provides a lightweight, organic lethal intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that is essential for small teams in irregular environments," says Finneral. "Even without direct line of sight, special forces operators can identify and interdict threats from a safe standoff distance."
There's no word yet on when the BattleHawk will get to the battlefield, though Textron has recently demo'd the system for the Army's Rapid Equipping Force—the same team that brought us the Front-Line Fab Lab—at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center in Socorro, NM and US Special Operations Command have reportedly expressed interest as well.