Air Weapons: Smaller, Smarter, Faster And Lethal


December 1, 2022: In 2021 Israel introduced Legion-X, an autonomous mission management system for swarms in the air (UAVs), sea (ASVs) or land (mobile or stationary units). Legion-X enables the operator to define which sensors (stationary or on vehicles) will be used for the task of observing an area with software to quickly analyze the data and report on who is doing what in near real-time.

Legion-X was first used in 2021 over Gaza to accurately locate where rockets aimed at southern Israel were being fired from. This made it possible to quickly and accurately use airstrikes, helicopter gunships or artillery to hit these locations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired about 4,400 rockets over 12 days. While 16 percent of the rockets were defective and landed in Gaza, the rest had to be handled by the Iron Dome air defense systems, which intercepted 90 percent of the rockets headed for occupied areas. The Legion-X UAV swarm used camera equipped quad-copters operating in groups (swarms) to quickly spot positions where rockets were launched from. Legion-X software took that information and supplied it to the air force and artillery units best able to quickly attack these firing positions, which often fired several rockets before the crews moved to avoid return fire. Legion-X software made it possible to hit these firing locations quickly enough to prevent more than one or two rockets being launched from that position.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad didn’t realize they were losing so many rocket launcher crews until it was too late. Because Legion-X use was kept secret, the commanders of the rocket campaign attributed their heavy losses to bad luck. Had they known of the Legion-X swarms, they would have ordered their many gunmen to open fire on any UAVs seen over Gaza. A swarm, by definition, contains vehicles that can adjust to losses, with surviving UAVs automatically repositioning themselves to continue their surveillance. The swarm operator can send up more vehicles (UAVs) to maintain optimum size of the swarm. In tests, Legion-X has used air, land and sea unmanned systems to quickly scout an area for an imminent attack by ground forces. This is done by providing an analysis of enemy strength, positions and capabilities as well as the optimal targets and approach routes for the attackers.

In 2022 an Israeli firm introduced the Lanius quadcopter that was compatible with Legion-X but could be used autonomously in small tactical swarms to collect information with its cameras and other sensors, or use an explosive payload to attack a target inside a building or any other enclosed location. Lanius can operate as part of a swarm or autonomously inside a building to map the layout and spot weapons or gunmen. The small warhead makes it possible to attack gunmen or destroy weapons.

Each Lanius quadcopter weighs 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds) and is fast (72 kilometers an hour or 20 meters a second). The speed, maneuverability and multiple sensors require a lot of power so Lanius can only operate for seven minutes. Lanius uses its speed and maneuverability to rush a hostile target that might return fire or simply to, as quickly as possible, produce an accurate 3-D map of an interior or exterior location. When in a place where Lanius cannot use a radio signal, the mission can be carried out with the UAV returning with the information before its time is up. Lanius can carry a lethal or (unspecified) non-lethal payload. The lethal payload would turn a Lanius into a very expensive hand grenade.

A single Lanius and its controller (which include a small video screen) can be carried in a soldier’s backpack and used to locate snipers or ambushes and, if necessary, used as a weapon to deal with these two threats. Lanius is most useful as a very quick, complete and effective scouting device. Lanius can also be transported, deployed and recovered by larger multi-copters, or land and naval vehicles. Users can employ a swarm of up to fifty Lanius UAVs to quickly scout an urban area occupied by enemy forces and quickly show what is what and who is where. In combat, speed and accurate information are major assets. Lanius provides both, but at high cost (over $5,000 per unit).




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