Local US military surveillance/strike capabilities have been growing with SecDef Robert Gates’ strong support for more attention to the needs of the counterinsurgency fight. Surveillance is part of that, but it needs to be backed by action. Pending and emerging approaches tie UAVs, manned propeller planes, artillery, and helicopters into a cohesive, fast, and flexible solution for finding, identifying, and capturing or killing opponents.
Another piece of that puzzle is about to fall into place…
The US Army’s RQ-7 Shadow UAVs are currently too small to carry weapons, but their surveillance turret’s laser rangefinder can designate GPS locations for JDAMs and related bombs, Excalibur 155mm artillery shells, and GMLRS 227mm rockets. That’s useful, but maximum unarmed effectiveness requires a lightweight laser designator that would add the ability to actively mark targets for weapons like Hellfire missiles, laser-guided 70mm rockets, or Paveway bombs. That way, the small and relatively cheap RQ-7s could mark targets for any component of Task Force ODIN.
The first challenge is making a full laser rangefinder and designator that’s powerful enough, but still small enough and light enough to fit on the Shadow UAVs. The second challenge involves making that solution part of Army systems that stretch beyond the Shadow UAVs carrying it. This article covers the first challenge.
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