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US Navy produces smart, cheap 6kg fire+forget missile

Suitcase-size 10km-sniper assassin version, anyone?

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Goodbye swarms, armoured assaults ... sniper rifles?

Small numbers of ordinary US Navy and Marine choppers like the Cobra and the Seahawk will soon, it would seem, be able to wipe out largish swarms on their own in a single pass – so frustrating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, perhaps, who are very fond of swarm tactics. The ONR admit that so far they have only proven single-shot operation for LCITS: further work will be needed to develop a smart fire-control system which can ripple off a pod of 70mms as fast as a machine gun firing, with every shot destroying a "Boghammar" gunboat or similar.

Assassin Brad Pitt having just fired a smart missile at his wife Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith (2005)

Ideal for the assassin in a hurry

US soldiers fire a Javelin missile. Credit: US Army

Not entirely fictional, either

But the step down from 50kg Hellfire to 6kg 70mm for reliable smart weapons – and not just laser ones, but fire-and-forget – is significant stuff. Most armoured vehicles can be knocked out by a 70mm with the right warhead: a single chopper or UAV could now, potentially, stop an armoured battle group dead in its tracks in a matter of seconds.

Away from the battlefield, even heavy Hellfires are already routinely used to assassinate individual human beings: smart 70mms will surely make this sort of thing even easier, the more so as they are fire-and-forget and cope with a moving target more easily.

We aren't just talking about aircraft or drones here, either. Ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have already used comparatively heavy 12kg Javelin antitank missiles to pick off individuals or small groups at long range even though a Javelin is expensive and only marginally portable.

In this context, the fact that a single-shot portable laser version of one 70mm type has already been offered for special forces use is quite interesting. Such a weapon, which could break down to suitcase size, could now be locked onto a single target - perhaps just someone walking along - from as much as ten kilometres away and home in to pick them off precisely. This, as the ONR vid above hints, might not require any explosive warhead at all: it would simply make a (very large) hole in the victim's body.

Certainly the day of the suitcase manhunter missile for use by snipers and assassins has come another step closer, just as the day of the tank, the artillery piece, the speedboat swarm (and surface warships which do something other than carrying aircraft, perhaps) has receded another step further into the past. ®

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