Warplanes: Marines Arm Their Shadows

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August 27, 2011: The U.S. Marine Corps has been using the Shadow 200 UAV for over three years and is now seeking to arm them. The 164 kg (360 pound) Shadow can carry 45 kg (100 pounds) of equipment. That usually means a day camera and night vision camera plus a laser designator. Newer models have a larger wing, which is hollow and carries more fuel, enabling the UAV to stay in the air up to nine hours, or carry more weight. The new wing also has hard points for two light weight missiles. The two most likely candidates are the 13.6 kg (30 pound) AKWS II laser guided 70mm rocket or the 2.7 kg (six pound) laser guided Spike.

Three years ago, the U.S. Navy carried out four successful tests of the then new Spike guided missile on UAVs. Note that this system has the same name, but is a different missile, than the Israeli anti-tank missile of the same name. The navy Spike is the smallest UAV launched guided missile ever, being 635mm (25 inches) long and 57mm in diameter. It can use a laser or an electro-optical guidance system (where the operator flies it into the target). Spike has been able to hit moving vehicles. Spike is also cheap, costing about $5,000 per missile. Range is 3,000 meters. The warhead contains a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives, which is sufficient to take out a carload of bad guys, or fly through a window and kill a room full. The AKWS II carried a 2.7 kg/six pound warhead and has a range of about six kilometers.

The Shadow has a range of about 50 kilometers from its controller (the operator and radio gear). Able to fly as high as 5,000 meters (15,000 feet), the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (over 3,200 meters/10,000 feet) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire. The Shadow UAVs, is 3.6 meters (eleven feet) long and has a wingspan that has been increased from 4.1 meters (12.75 feet) to 6.5 meters (20 feet.)

The Shadow is the largest UAV the marines have, and they want a UAV that can carry weapons. So they are experimenting with armed versions, building on work the army and navy have already done. By carrying less fuel, it looks like the marines could fit a Shadow with four Spikes, or two AKWSs, a laser range finder and a day or night vidcam.

 

 


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