Feeds

US Army dalek assassins to pack mini-missiles?

Terminator 3 Pringles-tube ordnance in the offing

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The US Army is looking to develop a range of miniaturised guided missiles for use by its robot warriors of the future, according to reports. Each missile could be the size of a large party cracker.

Under its Future Combat System (FCS) programme, the US Army plans to kit itself out with all kinds of futuristic gear. Originally, this was to include a lot of robots - including a kind of autonomous droid tank and four different kinds of aerial death-mech - but budget worries have led to several of the machine warriors being deferred.

Some are still left, however, including the miniature flying-dalek Class I and the robotised helicopter Class IV (the class-IV, charmingly, is to be capable of Manned and Unmanned teaming, or MUM operations, in which it cooperates with ordinary fleshy pilots. We suggest SCHTUM, Sudden CHange to Targeting of Unsuspecting Meatsacks, for the day of the inevitable machine-army coup d'etat).

The Class I MUM/SCHTUM platform

Not so much "Exterminate" as "Obliterate", then.

Thus far, flying kill-droids have tended to be armed with ordinary air weapons, for instance the Hellfire laser-guided missile. This is carried by air force Predators and Reapers, as well as ordinary old Apache attack helicopters. But Hellfires are big old five-foot jobs weighing 100 pounds. They're a bit heavy for little robots to lift. Sometimes, too, a Hellfire might be a bit of a sledgehammer when what you really wanted was a nutcracker.

Now, according to Flight International, the US Army plan to address these concerns. The plan is to develop a new class of mini-missiles, perhaps not dissimilar to the ones used for corridor scuffling by the little flying killbots at the end of Terminator 3.

Suzy Young, US Army advanced science and tech chief, told a killbot convention in France that "we want lethality for a non-traditional enemy", presumably referring to testy southwest Asians rather than the Governator and chums. It appears that each missile will be perhaps 18 inches long and weigh two pounds, even smaller and lighter than the Vietnam-vintage M72 LAW rocket.

(The LAW was always of dubious usefulness against its intended target - enemy tanks - but has long been popular among foot soldiers for taking out bunkers, blowing holes in walls etc. US Marines are still using it in Iraq, reportedly fitted with a new trendy fuel-air warhead.)

The LAW was a simple free-flying job, too, but the new droid-carried micro-missiles will be capable of tracking in on a laser dot at the very least. There are man-portable weapons which do this, or which can track an aircraft's heat exhaust, but they tend to be quite heavy and bulky.

The new US initiative seems to suggest a guided missile not much bigger than a tube of Pringles; one that could perhaps be carried by the new generation of man-portable, hand-launched silent mini-planes now going into action.

Latest-generation thermal imager kit might allow the new micro-missiles - or their launching droid motherships - to track the heat signature of individual humans in true sci-fi style. Flight reckons there will be a "family of interchangeable warheads", no doubt including fashionable fuel-air, armour piercing etc.

In many ways it seems a bit lazy of the US defence establishment to only develop these lightweight super-missiles for the convenience of robots. Many a cursing, overburdened human grunt of recent decades would have been glad to have a trouser-pocket thermobaric bomb rather than a mortar baseplate or similar.

The arms designers would contend, of course, that until very recently they were mainly looking to blow up enemy tanks - and you need a fairly big, fat missile for that. But it could be that in fact the weapons factories are working more and more for the robot army rather than the fleshy one...

Details from Flight here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.