Feeds

US Army dalek assassins to pack mini-missiles?

Terminator 3 Pringles-tube ordnance in the offing

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels
How the internet of things has deep roots in the English countryside
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Honeybee boffin STINGS OWN WEDDING TACKLE... for SCIENCE
Not the worst place to be stung, says one man
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.