The US Army and General Dynamis announced today that they’ve tested guided 81-millimeter mortar rounds mounted onto a small, 200 pound drone. Previously, guided drone strikes required huge drones like the Predator or Global Hawk, equipped with five-foot long Hellfire misiles costing $68,000 a pop. But the Air Drop Mortar (ADM) announced today is much smaller, and much cheaper: the 17-foot long drone successfully hit a target with an 81mm GPS-guided mortar shell.The ADM system consists of a TigerShark drone equipped with a formerly land-based mortar. The military started deploying GPS-guided mortars last year, which consist of a conventional morar round with “smart” stabilization fins. However, when you mount those mortars on a done, they target towards specific GPS coordinates. And they’re accurate: during the tests, the drone was able to drop a mortar from 7000 feet and hit a target within seven meters, which is well within the expected blast radius of 35 feet.
There are many tactical advantages to this new weapon: the 81mm mortar shells are cheap, and relatively light, so a larger drone than the TigerShark could conceivably carry many, many rounds. That means a drone could conceivably hit several targets accurately during the same flight. And since the blast radius is smaller than the Hellfire, there could conceivably be less collateral damage. As long as this advancement stays in war zones and off civilian streets, it sounds like a win-win for the American military.
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