Military Review

Ultra-small bombs: weapons for light UAVs

For several weeks, the Pentagon and Raytheon signed another contract for the work. In accordance with the new document, specialists at Raytheon must continue to work on several types of guided weapons. One of the clauses of the contract is the ultra-small aviation Pyros bomb. The successful completion of this project will open the way for other ultra-small bombs currently under development. Small bombs of small caliber are offered as weapons for unmanned aerial vehicles of the light and middle class. It is argued that ultra-small guided bombs will allow the UAV to effectively carry out the tasks of destroying small targets, such as manpower or unprotected enemy equipment. Consider some ammunition in this class.

Raytheon pyros

One of the first developments of the new class was the Pyros bomb, the refinement of which is carried out within the framework of a recently signed contract. In the early stages, the project was called STM (Small Tactical Munition - “Small Tactical Ammunition”). The initiator of the development of the STM / Pyros bomb was the United States Marine Corps. The command of the International Maritime Commission considered that in the current situation with the active development of unmanned aircraft, the units needed appropriate ammunition. An opinion emerged that light and medium-sized UAVs should not only carry out reconnaissance missions, but also be able to strike at ground targets. Weapons for such attacks should have been a promising STM bomb, the development of which began in the first half of the two thousandth.

Ultra-small bombs: weapons for light UAVs

The STM bomb carrier was supposed to be a AAI RQ-7 Shadow 200 UAV or other devices with similar characteristics. The capabilities of the RQ-7 drone (first of all, the payload capacity - 45 kg) affected the bomb requirements for it. The maximum ammunition weight should not exceed 6-7 kg, and the maximum length was limited to 2 feet (about 60 cm). In such dimensions it was required to enter the warhead with the greatest possible power, as well as a guidance system capable of ensuring high accuracy of the impact and thereby compensating for the low weight of the warhead.

In the fall of 2010, Raytheon's specialists conducted the first tests of the STM Phase I bomb. The ammunition had a total length of 56 cm and weighed about 5,4 kg. All units of the bomb were installed in a cylindrical housing with a head fairing. The hull had X-shaped wings and four stabilizers. Bomb STM first version equipped with a combined guidance system. For the initial aiming at the target, the ammunition had to use a satellite navigation system, and the hitting directly at the target was provided by a semi-active laser homing head.

Several test dumps of the STM Phase I bomb from unmanned aerial vehicles showed the viability of the concept, and also confirmed the correctness of the proposed technical solutions. In this case, the tests revealed some minuses of ammunition. According to the test results, the perspective ultra-small bombs were completed. The updated ammunition received the designation STM Phase II. All changes concerned the used equipment. Major adjustments to the design were not made.

To date, the STM bomb has undergone several modifications and changed its designation: now it is called Pyros. The overall structure of the bomb and the dimensions remained the same, but it became heavier to 5,9 kg. The ammunition carries a 7-lb (3,2 kg) high-explosive fragmentation warhead. It is known about the work on the creation of a warhead weighing 5 pounds (2,3 kg) of a new design with higher characteristics.

In the middle of 2012, Raytheon claimed that the Pyros project was “on the final stretch” and would soon be ready for delivery to the troops. At about the same time, there appeared a proposal on the possible expansion of the list of drones-carriers of ultra-low bombs. In addition to light or medium-sized UAVs, it can carry heavy class vehicles. In this case, instead of a single AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the RQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper drone will be able to take Pyros to the 7-8 bombs, which should have an impact on its combat capabilities.

Lockheed Martin Shadow Hawk

Seeing the success of a competitor, Lockheed Martin decided, on an initiative, to create its own ultra-small bomb project for arming unmanned aerial vehicles. The first test dump of the Shadow Hawk bomb took place at the end of March 2012. Like Raytheon’s development, Lockheed Martin’s super-small bomb is designed to arm light and medium UAVs that can attack various unprotected targets. The Shadow Hawk project can be considered an attempt by Lockheed Martin to get its place in the emerging market of promising ultra-small ammunition.

The super small bomb Shadow Hawk weighs only 5 kg. The total length of the ammunition 69 cm, diameter of the body 7 cm. In the middle part of the body, with a shift to the tail are X-shaped wings of small elongation. On the surface of the tail there are steering wheels. The semi-active laser homing head and control equipment are located at the head of the munition. After analyzing the features of ultra-small bombs, experts from Lockheed Martin came to the conclusion that only a laser guidance system could be used without any additional equipment.

The AAI RQ-2012 Shadow 7 UAV was used as a test platform in the spring of the 200 of the year. Laser target designation for the bomb was carried out from the ground. During the first test, a bomb was dropped at an altitude of 1545 meters. The automatics of the Shadow Hawk bomb successfully detected the laser-illuminated target and hit it. According to reports, the ammunition dropped on the target at a speed of about 500 km / h and deviated from the point indicated by the laser, only 8 inches (about 20 cm). The stated circular deviation, depending on the characteristics of the discharge, does not exceed the 1 meter.

Over the past two years, Lockheed Martin specialists conducted several more tests of their prospective ultra-low bombs. In addition, the company is actively working to promote its development in the armed forces of the United States and other countries. The promotional materials for the Shadow Hawk project feature the same arguments as in the case of the Raytheon Pyros bomb. It is argued that the new bomb will allow light and medium-sized UAVs to solve not only reconnaissance, but also shock tasks, which will simplify and cheapen the implementation of a wide range of missions.

ATK Hatchet

In 2012, the American company Alliant Techsystems (ATK) published the first information about its new ultra-small bomb project called Hatchet. Like Lockheed Martin, ATK took up an urgent problem and also decided to join the competition for future contracts. At the same time, ATK experts decided to interest potential customers in the original appearance of a promising ammunition. The authors of the project Hatcher headed for reducing the size and weight of the bomb. The aim of the project was to create an ultra-small bombs that could be used as weapons for light UAVs.

The authors of the project Hatchet promised to make the smallest bomb in its class: its caliber should not exceed 7 pounds (about 3,2 kg). With such a weight, a super-small bomb could be used by various light drones with a small payload. According to the published figures, the Hatchet bomb should have an interesting aerodynamic appearance. On the case of diameters of about 60 mm it was proposed to mount three folding wings of a triangular shape. In the tail of the bomb, there are three large elongation booster. According to some reports, the wings of a Hatchet bomb can be made of polymer film. For suspension under the wing or fuselage of a UAV, the bomb must be placed in a special container.

Like other developments of its class, the ATK Hatchet bomb was supposed to carry a light high-explosive fragmentation warhead, the power of which would be enough only to defeat manpower and unprotected enemy equipment. It is known about the development of two variants of the guidance system for a new bomb. One of them must control the ammunition using signals from the GPS satellite navigation system, the other - combined, using satellite navigation and a semi-active laser homing head. This should provide greater flexibility in the use of weapons: depending on the task to be performed, ammunition with the most suitable guidance system can be used.

Last September, representatives of Alliant Techsystems told about the current status of the Hatchet project. It was alleged that the design work had already been completed and the new ultra-small bomb was being prepared for tests. Tests of various elements of the bomb were planned to begin before the end of 2013. Full-scale trials of a drone-discharged munition are scheduled for 2014 year.

The future of ultra-small bombs

At the moment, none of the ultra-small bombs designed for use on unmanned aerial vehicles, not adopted for service. However, some munitions of this class are already being tested. In addition, there are new projects of similar systems. Over the next few years, the US Marine Corps should announce its decision on the future of the STM / Pyros bomb it ordered. The decision of the American commanders can have a great impact on the future of all such projects, since the adoption of the Pyros bomb will show real prospects for weapons of this class.

It is likely that the Pyros bomb will be adopted by the ILC, and in the future the same will happen with several other types of weapons of this class. Unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more common, and this trend will continue in the foreseeable future. Now light UAVs can not perform shock tasks, because they do not have weapons with acceptable characteristics. Ultra-small bombs like Pyros or Shadow Hawk should be the answer. Existing trends in the development of unmanned aircraft in the very near future may lead to the emergence of new ultra-small guided bombs.

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  1. Ptah
    Ptah 14 May 2014 08: 40
    Small ..., ultra-small ..., "nano" sizes ....
    One of the goals of creating any weapon is its action with the help of destructive force.
    How this can be achieved within a limited space. After all, the laws of chemistry and physics have not been canceled.
    It turns out only "new technologies". Only "thermonuclear decay" comes to mind.
    Filling with depleted (or not very depleted) uranium?
    1. Master_Lviv
      Master_Lviv 14 May 2014 10: 36
      The concept of point strikes does not imply the total destruction of everything in a row on the area near the target. In addition, reducing the weight of ammunition, in exchange for increasing the accuracy of the hit, is energetically more profitable - the tank is destroyed by the explosion of a bomb weighing half a ton next to it, or by a successful shot from a hand grenade launcher of a few kilograms. What is cheaper to deliver to the goal?
      1. mrDimkaP
        mrDimkaP 14 May 2014 19: 48
        And what is their range, their range? (Do all modern bombs plan?)

        And 5kg is not enough for bombs, this is a bomb, not a cumulative projectile, a bomb to destroy a tank should be at least 25 kilograms.
      2. zulusuluz
        zulusuluz 14 May 2014 20: 14
        Small bombs are weapons of extermination and revenge, not defense. The notorious "fight against terrorism" has led to the destruction of the population (until the court proved that this is a terrorist - the "object" is a person). After all, due to the fear of "missing" the target, the UAV operator cannot always recognize the real target. And to bomb bunkers and bunkers with such weapons is a futile idea.
      3. grandfather_Kostya
        grandfather_Kostya 14 May 2014 21: 44
        I’m selling the idea: a plastic drone with a ceramic engine and a plastic microbomb hangs imperceptibly above the aircraft carrier and, waiting for the airplane to descend on the elevator into the below-deck hangar, drops the bomb exactly into the hatch. The ship is sent for repair for a long time.
        1. sergey261180
          sergey261180 14 May 2014 21: 49
          Quote: grandfather_Kostya
          I’m selling the idea: a plastic drone with a ceramic engine and a plastic microbomb hangs imperceptibly over an aircraft carrier

          Is the battery and generator also plastic?
  2. user
    user 14 May 2014 09: 11
    All this is good, but the use of extra small ammunition will require high-energy explosives. The price of such explosives is an order of magnitude higher, i.e. it’s not without reason that TNT is still used, and not RDX (for example, there are even more powerful islands, but prices immediately 100 or more times) so of course it’s possible to create, but if we know the Russian realities in the troops, we won’t see them (though not only in Russian) - optimization of expenses in one word.
    1. Nayhas
      Nayhas 14 May 2014 09: 36
      Quote: user
      All this is good, but the use of extra small ammunition will require high-energy explosives. The price of such explosives is an order of magnitude higher, i.e. No wonder TNT is still used, and not RDX

      It depends on the tasks for which these ammunition is created. They are clearly not for the destruction of armored vehicles and protected objects. Destroy a pickup truck with a machine gun, or just a car with potential targets in it with minimal damage to others, for this 5 kg. bombs are enough.
      Quote: user
      but if we know the Russian realities in the army, we won’t see them

      You can't argue, we prefer to throw bombs and the more, the "better"
    2. igordok
      igordok 14 May 2014 10: 40
      Quote: user
      require explosives with high energy.

      Explosives with increased energy are more capricious and unstable. Ie, and the service is more expensive.
  3. Tektor
    Tektor 14 May 2014 11: 36
    Why reinvent the wheel twice: the wearable version of the ATGM Cornet weighs 31 kg, including the mass of metal bed and tripod, and all the necessary set of electronics with a power system. Modern options for military equipment - from thermobaric, high-explosive fragmentation to tandem anti-tank with a range of up to 10 km. Moreover, it can be used for moving targets, such as a helicopter, and belongs to the class of precision weapons. This can become a formidable shock weaponry of drones weighing 200 kg, such as a watch, and more.
    1. Professor
      Professor 14 May 2014 12: 36
      Quote: Tektor
      Why reinvent the wheel twice: the wearable version of the ATGM Cornet weighs 31 kg, including the mass of metal bed and tripod, and all the necessary set of electronics with a power system.

      ... and costs $ 40000

      Quote: Tektor
      Modern options for military equipment - from thermobaric, high-explosive fragmentation to tandem anti-tank with a range of up to 10 km.

      Flies 10 km, but falls at a short range? wink

      There is a cheaper option - a high-precision 81 mm mine.
      1. sergey261180
        sergey261180 14 May 2014 20: 50
        Quote: Professor
        There is a cheaper option - a high-precision 81 mm mine.

        How much it costs?
        1. Professor
          Professor 14 May 2014 21: 22
          Quote: sergey261180
          How much it costs?

          They do not write a specific price, I especially note that it is "cheap".
          Drone Economics: Tiny tactical drones get dirt-cheap, GPS-guided bombs
          1. sergey261180
            sergey261180 14 May 2014 21: 39
            Quote: Professor
            They do not write a specific price, I especially note that it is "cheap".

            Hellfire 190000, Javelin $ 80000. Well, then $ 10000-20000 is cheap for them laughing .
  4. uhu189
    uhu189 14 May 2014 15: 50
    Well, there are guided missiles, not just mines. Such bombs are probably needed for certain tasks, but they are unlikely to become a mass phenomenon, since they are too narrowly specialized due to their attachment to UAVs. Yes, and all the same expensive
  5. Jet
    Jet 14 May 2014 20: 23
    thank. finally an article about weapons, and not brainwashing that has become commonplace for the site ..
  6. corporal
    corporal 20 May 2014 00: 49
    All is correct. Such ammunition is needed, especially in counter-terrorism operations.