The US military has outlined specifications for a miniature suicide drone that would be capable of annihilating isolated targets without the “collateral damage,” typical of its larger relatives.
A new-type of drone sought by the US should be capable of killing someone within a six mile radius in less than half an hour. The Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) is intended to be a portable, covert weapon with strike capability against stationary or moving individuals, with a very low risk of collateral damage.
According to a recent Request for Information, the system is to consist of a drone, warhead and launching device with a maximum weight of less than five pounds. A special operations officer should be able to fit the entire LMAMS in a backpack and have it ready to fly within two minutes after the deployment of a specific target unit. Once airborne the unit should be able to sustain a 15-30 minute flight time and 5-10 kilometer range directed by a human controller or pre-programmed task through GPS. The Army wants it ready for use by 2016 at the latest.
“Once a target is selected by the operator in the terminal phase of an engagement,” the pre-solicitation reads, “no further operator input shall be required.” The army wants to use the new drone on isolated targets: “personnel and personnel in moving light-duty vehicles, while minimizing collateral damage.”
The US Military is investing heavily in research and development towards testing and deploying increasingly automated systems. Drone units have been heavily used by the United States in the so called War on Terrorism. In countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen their use has been on the rising.
“As a result, the number of estimated deaths from the Obama administration's drone strikes is more than four times what it was during the Bush administration – somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618,” according to security analyst Peter Berge speaking to CNN.
During the Bush administration, approximately 25 percent of strikes targeted al-Qaeda insurgents, while 40% targeted the Taliban. In contrast, under the Obama administration eight percent of the missions have targeted al-Qaeda, and 51% have targeted the Taliban, reports the New American foundation. Only one out of every seven drone strikes killed a militant leader, according to data collected as of the summer of 2011, leaving a heavy civilian “collateral damage” of 32 percent at its peak.
A public opinion survey conducted by the New America Foundation and the Terror Free Tomorrow in July 2010, found that 90 percent of Pakistanis that live in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan oppose the US drone campaign. The killing of civilians in drone attacks is an important and politically charged issue in Pakistan who view them as violations of national sovereignty. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has said that up 3,325 people were killed in aerial missions in Pakistan alone.
The new “Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System” will try to avoid collateral damage when deployed in the American War on Terror.