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New pocket-sized smartbomb - just for killer robots

Thermos-sized weapon ideal for CIA assassin droids

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US weaponry megacorp Raytheon says it has successfully tested a new, pocket-sized smartbomb specifically designed for use by killer robots.

The weapon has been rather prosaically dubbed Small Tactical Munition (STM). STM is a 13-pound guided bomb that is approximately 2 feet long, according to Raytheon. Two of the little smartbombs have now been successfully trialled at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. According to a company statement, both used GPS-INS combo satnav'n' inertial guidance to get themselves to where they could see their targets: then homed in on a laser pointer dot for the final part of their descent.

According to Raytheon, this dual-mode guidance enables the STM minibombs to "enable the weapon to engage both fixed and moving targets around-the-clock, regardless of weather conditions".

At the moment the main weapon used in US (and UK) hunter-killer operations by such robots as the Predator/Reaper family is the Hellfire missile. this is quite surgical compared to typical aerial bombs used by manned aircraft (which are normally of 500lb, 1000lb or even 2000lb clout) but at 100lb it is still pretty hefty - capable of destroying a tank - and tends to cause unnecessary casualties to bystanders.

"Current combat operations have highlighted the need for extremely small, precise weapons that are optimally designed for remotely piloted aircraft," says Bob Francois, Raytheon robomissile bigwig. "STM is part of a portfolio of weapons that meets the warfighter's need in this area."

Quite apart from robotic aerial operations in Afghanistan and Iraq by the US and UK militaries, there is also a serious, notionally secret robot bombing/assassination campaign going on in the border areas of Pakistan - thought to be conducted mainly by CIA robots (it was the CIA which first used a Hellfire-equipped Predator to kill someone, in the Yemen way back in 2002). Collateral damage from these missions is causing a lot of anger in Pakistan, so Raytheon may well be right to suspect that the STM will find a ready market.

"Developing a unique weapon for today's unmanned aircraft combat operations is a natural fit," adds Francois. ®

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