UAV Proliferation

Our future ground based anti-air capabilities seem to be coalescing around CAMM and Lightweight Starstreak but have a look at this video.

The caption reads

While NATO countries fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) high above Libya, none of these UAVs, or the vital intelligence they provide, was available to the Libyans fighting to free their country — they were fighting blind. So, they got one of their own. The Libyan rebels have been using the Aeryon Scout Micro UAV to acquire intelligence on enemy positions and to coordinate their resistance efforts. This video gives sample photos and video from both the Scout’s daylight and thermal payloads.

With this kind of unmanned system, relatively unsophisticated in comparison to a Reaper of course, defence economics come into play.

Systems like these, costing less than £10,000 can be easily obtained on the open market in significant quantities, operated without extensive training or worrying about airspace management, carry day and night sensors and generally provide enemy forces with a big asymmetric advantage.

It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to see how they could be easily weaponised either.

If all we can counter them with is hundreds of thousand pound missiles do we have an operational and economic problem?

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October 8, 2011 4:45 am

Maybe the day of the AA gun isn’t dead after all.

October 8, 2011 6:47 am

job for infantry that, either the gpmg or the dm

October 8, 2011 7:02 am

Simply “yes” to:do we have an operational and economic problem?

More and more vehicles are touting a heavy machine gun (or any MG) on top, maybe with a shield (maybe even as an RWS).
– no thought has gone into the angles and firing positions to engage light aerial targets (except at a distance, where the angle is not so much of a problem)

Compare with the charge of the Light Brigade, the elite US Air Assault Bde (159th Eagle Thunder) taking on an armoured Iraqi division. Every single tank and APC would have had an AA heavy MG
– not one Apache came back without hits; merit to the armour and design of Apaches for survivability
– but having such proliferation of AA cover would rip the light UAVs from the skies (without even bringing the AA guns back; to a Watchkeeper type of target you can spare a missile and they would be too high for MGs anyway)
– AA guns are manpower intensive anyway, compared to a mix of missiles and secondary armament for AA on vehicles

October 8, 2011 7:42 am

I was thinking more along the lines of vehicle mounted, radar guided type jobs.

October 8, 2011 7:58 am

Hi Chris B,

Would that be the Gepard/ Marksman type of job? All in, I think the turrets approach 10 tonnes.

The unit costs (radar and all the rest) are horrendous. Whereas making AA sights day & night capable through adding thermal sights can be a pervasive response to a pervasive threat (day & night, without breaking the bank)

October 8, 2011 8:26 am

* shameless self-promotion and lazymode on *

I wrote for a while that air defence against munitions and drones is of greater interest than talk about 5th generation fighters (or about them being manned or not).

Cheap targets do indeed require cheap ammunition, especially as they could be employed at a Schwerpunkt, requiring that defence has much more ammunition forward than expected targets.

High-power battlefield lasers / death rays are still a few years around the corner as they have been for about fifty years.
The correct answer is thus a shell. Small calibre direct hit shells (20-27 mm) and medium calibre shells with little shrapnel/fragmentation capability (30-40 mm) are very limited in their external ballistics; many of them would be requires for a good coverage.

The conclusion is indeed that we need the return of heavy AAA (60-90 mm). I did include that in my medium calibre all-round gun text:

The lower end of countermeasures should include shotguns (against the featherweight drones).

* /shameless self-promotion and being too lazy to type it all again off *

October 8, 2011 9:28 am

Don’t forget ACC that such a vehicle would also be responsible for defense against helicopters and any future loitering muntions, should they become viable.

I’d imagine much of it would depend on how difficult it proves to be to shoot some of these drones out of the sky using GMPG or an M2. Depending on altitude and the speed and protection of the target, even 5.56 might cut it.

October 8, 2011 9:52 am

Although I agree UAVs “should” be concentrated, I dont believe in reality they will be.

I’ve said frequnetly, I’d feed them into air defences to learn positions and expend ammunition, but real world armies wouldnt do that.
Even iof every platoon had a UAV, well, your looking at dozens available, not hundreds.

October 8, 2011 9:56 am

Hi Chris B,

Absolutely ” such a vehicle would also be responsible for defense against helicopters and any future loitering muntions”
– Starstreak (with its speed) was needed exactly to counter contour utilising pop-up tactics of hostile AHs

Rapid firing guns are a good alternative, but for the “system” to be effective, they become both bulky and expensive
– Russians use very impressive gun/ missile combos both on AFVs and on ships
– Thales has been trying to warm up this idea with a CTA/ Starstreak combo (the gun specifically cited for use against AFV, not being a particularly rapid firing, and Starstreak for the rest)
– Germany has been humping their Gepards to S. America on the cheap
– the only ones who bought the Marksman were the Finns. The turret was so heavy that a normal T55 could not carry it and (for parts commonality) a heftier chassis version had to be procured from Poland.

Now, if you take a tank rgment to be 38-44, operating in at least 3 independent formations, how many SPAAGs would you need to have a reasonable defence? 3 x 2, because the obscuring contour effects would otherwise give too many available angles of attack (thinking of AHs mainly)
– as I stated before, the unit price is prohibitive for covering anything else except prime manoeuvre units (on the move, which is a must and in the name)

October 8, 2011 10:03 am

Hi DJ,

They would!
“but real world armies wouldnt do that.”

We are talking about modern day gun fodder here. Every time you fire on them, you expose a higher value target for the OpFor (and most of the time AA assets are close to something of even higher value, to protect “it”, especially given their fairly moderate range – as assessed against the range for tacair stand-off munitions.So the “lumping together” effect will be unavoidable, and will be used for further targeting).

October 8, 2011 10:08 am

too late to edit the @9:56
“CTA/ Starstreak combo (the gun specifically cited for use against AFVs”
-against UAVs was meant

October 8, 2011 11:09 am

Just read the interview of the Russian AF Commander, from last year and perhaps not widely published

– operated by a separate force, on par with their “AAC” which is part of the Air Force
– co-operation with Israel (using their models to benchmark the new Russian designs)
– in their (A)Force2020 plans 40% of the units flown by the AF might be UAVs (?)

Leaving UAVs behind, but might be of general interest (Open Thread stuff, really):
– 1994 to 2003 zero new planes received
– 2003 to 2009 two SU34s and one (!) TU-160 received

TU160s are basically TU95s re-engineered with modern technology. Outside nuclear they serve the same kind of first-day SEAD/DEAD purpose that saw American bombers in Libya in the early stages
– the shorter-ranged bomber force is heavily focussed on being anti-ship missile carriers

First new A2A & A2G missile types, after a fifteen year break, just ordered!

October 8, 2011 11:11 am

For more stationary formations a version of Centurion would surely be applicable? Could you get Phalanx and generator on a DROPS pallet on the back of an 8×8? If it could pick up RPGs and rifle bullets it would make a hell of a deterrent protector of FOBs! The RN might have some older Phalanx knocking about.
At the mini end of the UAV spectrum I assume that they would be amusing targets for snipers? They might need some kind of pole to support the high angle shots.
Surely for top tier armies the answer will be in ECM? If Land Rovers can mount anti-IED ECM surely they can manage with jammers for UAV controls/data transmission?

October 8, 2011 11:20 am

Hi Chris B,

UAVs can be preprogrammed (are the MALD devices missiles or UAVs?)

The pictures shown of Centurion in A-stan, to me, looked like a full-size container, obviously with things sticking out at the top.
– what do these things weigh when they are ripped out of a ship and its supporting services (is all that’s needed in there, in that container, or are there generators, things for water cooling etc still to be attached, once in position)?

October 8, 2011 11:37 am

The biggest threat is the info getting back to the bad guys though. Presumably the loiter munitions are only fully autonomous if sent into an area know to have valid targets -ie intel already in?
Phalanx needs a generator and cooling water.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
October 8, 2011 11:46 am

What about something like the Ares 75mm gun? They did produce a prototype AA version of the RDF/LT with cannon and SAM missiles?

Edit: Just saw S O’s links – sorry for the repeat.

Mike W
October 8, 2011 4:03 pm

I am quite convinced that shall have to introduce (or re-introduce) a gun system sometime in the future. There seems little sense, as TD says, in expending costly missiles against large numbers of less expensive UAVs.

I don’t know a great deal about the Rheinmetall Oerlikon 35mm gun systems. I think that Skyranger is the mobile AA gun system (for use on high-mobility armoured vehicles) and that Skyshield is the more static C-RAM-type weapon. However, they are closely related and would therefore have a good deal of commonality. Perhaps people will be able to provide more information for me.

Maybe we should look closely at these weapons as possible candidates to fill: a) the C-RAM requirement hinted at very strongly in the SDSR and b) the eventual requirement for a successor to the Stormer HVM mobile AA system. The Skyshield is supposed to be among the best of the available C-RAM systems at the moment and would be compatible with the Skyranger, thus saving money.

October 8, 2011 4:18 pm

i hope i’m wrong and we buy thousands of them.

jamming is a solution, but what if its self piloting?
Fly out, take pictures, fly back, hand images to the dudes who do that sort of thing.
Guns are good against low flyers, but what do you do when 600 drones at 10,000ft?

October 8, 2011 4:26 pm

@ DomJ,

I have no idea of the costs involved, but maybe its time we started looking into EMP/microwave weapons as part of the anti uav mix?

October 8, 2011 4:44 pm

But it doesnt need to be “highly capable”
It needs to have masses of ammunition and use it efficiently.

Mike W
October 8, 2011 5:09 pm


I take the point about it not needing to be highly capable. However, aren’t you defeating your own point to a certain extent when you say, “Guns are good against low flyers, but what do you do when 600 drones at 10,000ft?”

Your infantry weapons (GPMG, etc.) are not going to be good against high flyers either, whereas a 35mm cannon will almost certainly have a longer (higher) range. It would also use ammunition efficiently.

October 8, 2011 6:14 pm

Hi Mike W,

Starting from the newest, Skyshield, which I agree with you is the state of the art static C-Ram (a bit like Centurion, but better, that we discussed before). Lots of info on the net
– must be expensive; the Germans only bought enough for two airbases

We go back two generations: Skyguard, lots of it in use, beefing up the 35mm Oerlikons for networking and unified control (it was these that the British forces were taking out in the Falklands).

The generation in-between: Skyranger, as you say a mobile system
-sort of fell between the chairs when Oerlikon became a subsidiary of Rheinmetall; here are some details for it:
“Top-notch protection for mobile forces: The Skyranger gun system

A new development in the field of self-propelled multi-mission systems, the Skyranger gun system is optimized for the protection of mobile formations and stationary assets. The Skyranger family embraces the Skyranger gun, the Skyranger guided missile launcher as well as the Skyranger radar and command system. Configuration of the complete system can be selected on a mission-specific basis. Modified to meet survivability and mobility requirements, either a wheeled or tracked vehicle can be selected as a platform.

The multi mission Skyranger gun system: The system’s central component is an unmanned turret integrated into the vehicle. It owes its extremely low weight to the use of advanced materials and technologies. The gun turret, which (for example) can be integrated into an 8×8 wheeled vehicle, is equipped with the tried-and-tested 35 mm revolver gun from Oerlikon Contaves. Coupled with high-performance ammunition, the selectable rate of fire–ranging from a single shot to 1,000 rounds per minute–makes it an ideal weapon for engaging air and ground targets. Moreover, highly lethal Ahead ammunition gives the gun a C-RAM capability. A dual feed mechanism means that two ammunition types are ready to fire at all times.

An electro-optical target-tracking sensor controls the Skyranger gun system. It automatically tracks the target assigned to it by the command system. The passive tracking sensor ensures superb performance day and night–even under adverse weather conditions. To enhance its ability to engage ground targets, an additional radar sensor can be integrated into the system. Standardized links and an open structure enable the network-based exchange of information with higher echelon command and weapon engagement systems.

A close relative of:Anti-missile defence at sea: The Millennium naval gun system

Thanks to its high rate of fire (up to 1,000 rounds per minute) and its use of Ahead ammunition, the Millennium is the only medium-calibre revolver gun capable of successfully shooting down enemy missiles at ranges of up 2.5 km. An integrated computer takes over control of the weapon, performing the necessary ballistic calculations.

This unmanned gun system can be mounted on a variety of surface combatants, and can operate in combination with any advanced fire control system. Moreover, it is easy to integrate into existing ship defence systems.”

All of them my favourites, and the Skyranger might still “come” as the SPAAGs have mostly been taken out of service (in the West).

October 8, 2011 6:22 pm

Hi TD,

Funnily enough, all the Seahawks now available started with “marinizing” the Rarden.

Obviously a different feed system (for ROF), and after many mergers there are now lots of variations on offer, including combos with LMM (surface & slow helos) and Mistral (AA).

October 8, 2011 6:40 pm

Oh I havent solved the problem, thats why I like the idea so much.
What do you do if 600 drones turn up at 10,000ft and start lasing targets and spotting artilery fire?
To shoot them down, youre going to need radar aimed cannons, either 70ish firing fused high explosives, or 30ish scoring hits.
Light up your radar, please, I’ll lob a few ALARMs along for the ride. Or we could arm one in ten with a small guided munition, or make them suicideable by remote pilot, or even just get them ramming a GPS reference, if we cant supply the ARMs.
Pretty much a charlie sheen button.
Massivly expensive and only sustainable in the very short term, but in an actual war, very cost effective.

October 8, 2011 6:43 pm

How about the MSI Defence Seahawk Sigma?

With 30mm AHEAD ammunition, it should be effective against UAVs. Not ideal for land systems, perhaps, but current and common.

October 8, 2011 6:54 pm

Because I made a song and dance about the qualities of Skyranger (not much take up, though), I thought that perhaps I should offer my own clunky translation for the most comparable system – the Russian Pantzir S1:

” Logistics nodes closest to manoeuvre forces to which the main threat is judged to be cruise missiles and SDMB-like weapons are the first to get this advanced protection [this is purely a fiscal priority/ necessity and the ultimate roll-out of the system will be all the way to the front line mobile/ manoeuvre formations]. NB Countering a much higher level threat than UAVs, but any recce/ jamming or armed UAVs can be handled with the “left hand”

It was necessary to retain the gun in conjunction with the missiles to be able to counter all types of threats. When the missiles are off, from the first couple of hundred meters up to the first kilometer they just pick up speed and are not guided so only targets far enough can be engaged. The gun element can engage with accuracy out to 3 km and be effective at targets flying at only a couple of meters altitude.

Subsonic cruise missiles, using their contour-flying features, will pop up at a fairly close range and only 3 to 5 meters above the ground/ tree level.

October 8, 2011 7:09 pm

What’s the operational ceiling of the cheap as chips UAV’s? Could we counter them with a .50 cal with a good elevation linked to an off the shelf electro-optical sensor system?

EDIT: How well would these cheap as chips UAV’s see through smoke – if they cannot see our vehicles then they cannot suicide dive on them or be modified to drop mortar shells.

October 8, 2011 7:16 pm

I’ve had a long old think about this (well, 3 hours) and something about it was bugging me. I was thinking “we’ve been here before, I’m sure we have…” (re: lots of scouts in the sky).

Then of course it twigged. This is aerial warfare in WW1 all over again. Replace Scout planes with scout drones, and bobs your uncle. Artillery spotting, recon, sound familiar?

So what was the WW1 solution? AA guns played a part, but the answer came in the form of the Scout fighter. So maybe that’s how you deal with the UAV threat. You build slightly faster, more agile UAV’s with perhaps an IRST sight on the front. Put a gun on it, give it some pylons for Sidewinders, and start picking those enemy UAV’s out of the sky.

October 8, 2011 7:18 pm

Also had another random thought – could you counter UAV’s and loitering munitions with cheap A2A UAV’s – I am thinking less unmanned Typhoon and more unmanned Spitfire – if you had a smallish gun armed UAV and a control vehicle you could use it to sweep ahead and kill any UAV’s it’s patrol area.

EDIT: Snap – looks like great minds think a like as me and Chris.B have come up with the same idea (his post was not on my screen when I thought up gun armed UAV’s)

October 8, 2011 7:30 pm

Hi Tubby,

RE “How well would these cheap as chips UAV’s see through smoke – if they cannot see our vehicles then they cannot suicide dive on them or be modified to drop mortar shells”

Luckily Raytheon and Nammo N[ordic]ammo are on our side:
“Raytheon UAV Munition
Compared to the STM phase 1, this new Raytheon UAV munition is smaller and incorporates a retractable wing and fin design, making it compatible with standard US military weapons launching equipment.
It also boasts a unique warhead design produced by Nammo-Talley and a hi-tech semi-active laser seeker, allowing the Small Tactical Munition to carry out precision strikes on rapidly-moving non-static targets.
“STM Phase II was designed from the ground up to blend lethality and extreme precision with affordability, making it highly attractive to the warfighter [SORRY!]”, Raytheon Missile Systems Advanced Missiles and Unmanned Systems vice president, Bob Francois, said”

October 8, 2011 7:30 pm

Theres more fundamental problem can we track them and find them especially if its at night. There usually reasonably quiet and quite small. Are we intending to have ground radar vehicles with every patrol because we may never know any ones watching us if we dont.

October 8, 2011 7:35 pm

Mark, you captured the essentials of the [changed!] threat
– mainly “we” are in the lead
– but others are not far behind;
and in the affordable counter, we are behind

October 8, 2011 7:39 pm

people cant see through smoke either.
I dont want to be a soldier in your army if every buggers got to carry around an emiting smoke grenade at all times.
How long can you breathe it for?

Chris and tubby
yep, thats an option, but one assumes fighters would be expensive, but yeah, couple of lmgs, plenty of ammo, but who could afford these?
Were rich, a couple of million on uavs is nothing.
Could iran afford it?

October 8, 2011 8:08 pm

Hi DJ,

Humans being the limiting factor? – What is technology for: Next-gen small diameter bomb

“uses GPS/INS system to guide itself into the general vicinity of a moving target during the initial search phase, with any necessary course correction updates provided using a Link 16 or UHF data link. The bomb has three modes of target acquisition: millimeter-wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared, and semi-active laser. The weapon is capable of fusing the information from the sensors to classify the target and can prioritize certain types of targets as desired when used in semi-autonomous mode.

The shaped charge warhead in the bomb has both blast and fragmentation effects which makes it effective against infantry and other soft targets, armor (including MBTs), unhardened structures and buildings as well as patrol craft sized boats.”

So, this is coming soon, after the Nammo-Talley mortar round -sized intelligent weapon for the current generation UAVs.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
October 8, 2011 8:09 pm
October 8, 2011 8:11 pm

Hi DJ, further:

“this is coming soon – to a theater near you”
– I did not want to add this slogan; It would be really bad taste… but just to start you thinking

October 8, 2011 8:27 pm

google project assault breaker.
What you described was on the drawing board in the 80s, in the end, they pantsed out and stopped at hellfire.

I think its going as viperstrike at the moment i think.

October 8, 2011 8:34 pm

Hi DJ,

I might have misled you, as the @8:08 and @8:11 were part of the same, just that GJ got in-between , with good thoughts that I am just about to comment on [?]
– otherwise, I don’t really understand your remark

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
October 8, 2011 8:36 pm
October 8, 2011 8:43 pm

the bit you described sounds remarkably like where assault breaker was going.
I was just letting you know

October 8, 2011 8:44 pm

Following on from GJ’s link:

“With the current trend in GBAD systems towards distributed “information based” architectures comprising sensors, ADC4I systems and supersonic surface-to-air missiles in an integrated network, missiles required to engage and destroy the full spectrum of air threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and expensive. Firing a £/$160,000 missile to destroy a UAV costing less than £/$10,000 is unlikely to prove cost-effective, unless that UAV is thought to pose a significant and immediate threat to defended assets..”

“The modern battlespace features a dramatic increase in the employment of low-cost tactical UAVs to provide situational awareness using short-range visual and IR sensors. These UAVs provide significant benefits even to technologically unsophisticated aggressors, for example to provide targeting information to long-range artillery, or to allow terrorists or guerrillas to detect and evade advancing forces. There is therefore a requirement to be able to defeat low-cost tactical UAVs”

And The problem with using MANPADS (apart from cost) is that the new micro-UAVs with small prop engines may produce signals too small for the seeker to lock on to.

The hit probability for a .50 cal rifle or MG against such a small object at a difficult-to-determine range, altitude, speed and heading would I think be extremely low.

Something like the Oerlikon AHEAD shrapnel-type gun system ought to work, although picking the targets up on radar may not be easy either – the system is very big and expensive.

The ideal might be a modification of the airburst technology used in the OICW and OCSW. Barrett have developed a version of their rifle chambered for the 25mm round. Modified AHEAD-type ammo, coupled with the laser rangefinder and ballistic computer, should do the trick.

Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and Discussion forum

Mike W
October 8, 2011 8:45 pm

Thanks very much for all the detailed information. Made for a very interesting read.

I did not know, for instance, that the Skyranger system had an unmanned turret. Nice to know that the Ahead ammunition gives the gun a C-RAM capability too.

Seems that this might be the kind of dual-purpose system to go for (when we can afford it).

October 8, 2011 9:05 pm

That thing… sligthly above
– starting from GJ’s contributed link
– and going into TW’s commentary on the general topic, following “And” crashed, but
– -all I wanted to say was really there
– -and, the quotes were also attributed (in the main)

October 8, 2011 9:24 pm

My favourite quote from the DARPA link;

“China, Russia, Iran, France — all sorts of enemies of freedom have unmanned aerial vehicles…”

Remember folks, keep your eyes on the French!

October 8, 2011 9:39 pm

Hi DominicJ,

I thought making smoke from armoured vehicles was already possible and just wondered how useful a £10k UAV would be to an assymetric opponent if it cannot really see what is happening through the smoke (edited for clarity).

Ditto the armed WWII styled fighter like UAV’s – there designed to allow us to deal with assymetric threat of small tactical UAV’s becoming cheaper than a MANPAD to buy for Southern hemisphere armies/insurrections/terrorist groups who might be able to use cheap UAV’s to off-set their disadvantages.

Peer on peer conflict is different but I am not sure its worth spending loads of money defeating peer UAV systems – better to concentrate on an affordable system to deal with the far more likely scenario that we will be dealing with relatively cheap and limited tactical UAV’s field by irregular forces.

paul g
October 8, 2011 9:59 pm

didn’t metalstorm have some million rounds a minute thing? I know they were working on a lightweight multibarrel weapon for UAV’s. Not heard anything for a while, shame as their UGL was bob on, although as i write this checking the website it seems they are working with colt on the underslung 12 gauge.
oo found it on youtube

ooooooo dat thing tiny!!!!

better explanation showing how operator controls rate of fire with laptop remotely

October 8, 2011 10:26 pm

Why would you need a UAV when you can see huge plumes of smoke over the horizon?

October 8, 2011 10:32 pm

Good question and fair point made Phil, but I was imaging a situation where the tactical UAV’s are armed with say a mortar bomb on pylons, and they are circling for targets – if you cannot shoot them down I was wanting to know if you could generate smoke to stop the operator’s getting a lock – again this is all about asymmetric attacks – if £10k buys a UAV and the next-gen Taliban weaponise it for another £10k they get a mission win if they can use it once to destroy one Warthog or Mastiff, but if all we need to do is spot it and then create smoke then the Taliban will spend £20k for nowt.

October 9, 2011 4:17 am

@ Paul G

“didn’t metalstorm have some million rounds a minute thing”

– They did indeed. Turns out putting a microchip into each round is relatively expensive. They even had a pistol design at one point with four barrels set up in a diamond; it could fire a three round burst before the recoil mechanism even kicked in, leaving a perfect three round group in the target (measured in eights of an inch between the entry wounds!)

If I remember, they hit financial difficulties and decided to focus on the 40mm grenade applications of their technology, with the two most promising examples being a multi-barrelled launcher that could 1) fire something ridiculous like 20x40mm HE grenades per second and drop them in a grouping the size of your dining table, and 2) fire 40mm rounds filled with some kind of fire retarding chemical/smoke (not CO2, it breaks the chemical reaction that occurs in a fire) for use in instances when a large area of fire needs to be suppressed quickly (airline fire, grass fire) or when a long distance target needs to be reached (boat fires, fires in tall buildings).

All rather snazz stuff.

A different Gareth
A different Gareth
October 9, 2011 12:34 pm

Tubby said: “Also had another random thought – could you counter UAV’s and loitering munitions with cheap A2A UAV’s – I am thinking less unmanned Typhoon and more unmanned Spitfire – if you had a smallish gun armed UAV and a control vehicle you could use it to sweep ahead and kill any UAV’s it’s patrol area.”

Given the light nature of the UAVs could you fly past at high speed and let turbulence take them down rather than try and shoot them?

paul g
October 9, 2011 2:53 pm

didn’t realise the chip was in the round thought that was only the airburst one (the anti RPG7 vid on their site is cracking). However with all things tech i would assume the price will eventually fall. i did note the underslung 5 round shotgun has been taken up by colt so mass production will help that price fall.
Small company like that should be encouraged to have a base here in the UK like i suggested with denel get some manufacturing here in the UK, plenty of test areas the UAV zone in west wales and obviously the outer hebs, could be sorted for the price of a couple of schools in some far off land that hates us anyway!!!

October 9, 2011 3:39 pm

Everyone seems to be talking “hard kill” so don’t forget:

1. DF-ing their downlink – they are no use to their operators if not transmitting live feed, so scan for their frequencies, and either blanket jam, or DF the origin and directionally jam

2. Use LIDAR / IR / Acoustic sensors to locate – yes they will have very small signatures, but I doubt they will be beyond the realm of detection by modern sensors

3. If you can identifly one, get a visual lock on it (with IR / EO) then “dazzle” it with a laser, not use to the bad guy if it cant see anything

4. Maskirovka – best we get back into the art of camouflage and deception !

October 9, 2011 8:50 pm

@ Paul G

Yeah, each round consists of the bullet, primer, charge, a small chip and then a thin skirt wrapped around the charge (to stop gases bleeding forward past the fired round). The firing device (a computer, either in the pistol grip or on a firing station) sends the signal to the round, which then has to fire it’s own primer and charge.

Obviously I’m not privvy to the inner workings of it, but the actual weapon itself will probably be much cheaper (in most applications it’s just a set of barrels held together) and then the money maker will be the preloaded ammunition tubes. A bit like the old Gillette model of business.

The applications though are pretty interesting. If you consider that a standard Phalanx CIWS basically fires a single stream of rounds that has to be guided onto to the target, whereas a 20mm CIWS using Metal Storm technology could fire a 4ft by 4ft wall of rounds simultaneously. It’ll be like taking a shotgun to incoming rounds (I can’t wait to see Metal Storm develop a personal shotgun for home defence!)

There’s obviously problems with it still. Each successive round is further back down the barrel, so the ballistics for a weapon like that would be odd. It’s like firing a shot from a 4 inch barrel, then one from a 4.5 inch, then 5 inches etc, and all problems that entails.

It’s also quite space consuming. Whereas a standard gun can offset the feed system from the barrel, a metal storm type weapon either has to increase the number of barrels, or increase their length. I’m not sure as it’ll ever make it as an aircraft gun for example (They can be reloaded, but it involves removing the tube of old ammo and replacing it with a new full tube).

@ Jed

4. Absolutely agree.

3. Is something I can see hitting off. It reminds me of the Leigh lights used in the Battle of the Atlantic, with the searchlight coupled to the radar. If you had decent enough DF equipment you could link that with the lasers and away you go. I remember reading about a Police helicopter that had to call off a chase once because the little shits in the car were using a jacked laser pointer to shine in the pilots eyes (it was at night, which compounded the problem).

October 9, 2011 9:11 pm

Hi Chris B,

I do like the MS concept, but as for “If you consider that a standard Phalanx CIWS basically fires a single stream of rounds that has to be guided onto to the target, whereas a 20mm CIWS using Metal Storm technology could fire a 4ft by 4ft wall of rounds simultaneously.”
– the terminal manoeuvre of the ASMs left the wall of metal -concept of defence for dead
– Phalanx is well beyond the early concept (ROF was key, in it) as it has the radar. It is not only tracking the target, but its own metal storm and the correcting feedback is in nano-seconds

October 9, 2011 9:23 pm

i remember a complaint from ghanners to the effect that it took three days for tornado recon to make its way back to the front lines.
Jam a uav, it can land and have its drives pulled in 30 seconds.

Even jamming isnt easy, jammers are noisey, home on jamming, and it leaves you deafer.

Dazzling is fine for one, but hundreds?

How about nets, like chain shot from cannons?

October 9, 2011 9:47 pm

These cheap UAVs that may be set to swarm us are going to be limited in their aviation capabilities. In the near future, they will be slow and cumbersome.

Their defence is small size and quantity.

Quantity and cost means that the only cost-effective way of downing them is gunfire or soft-kill systems like lasers or jamming. The limitation of this is range. Blanket coverage jamming either requires large emitters which are no good for electronic warfare, or distributed emitters.

Likewise line of sight systems like guns and laser. The range is limited by dispersion, pointing accuracy and the like, so you need your systems dispersed with your forces to provide adequate coverage. This, in my mind, argues against specialised systems like Marksman, Gepard etc. and for integrating the capability into standard vehicles. Modern IFVs mount automatic cannon with powered elevation and traverse, powerful optics, laser rangefinders and airbursting ammunition, so it would be possible to use these vehicles in a counter-UAV role. It might take some additional equipment in some cases, such as advanced cuing systems, but these could be added to the standard vehicle in a one per platoon or troop arrangement and this could hand-off targets to other vehicles.

October 9, 2011 9:58 pm

The way to go
” Modern IFVs mount automatic cannon with powered elevation and traverse, powerful optics, laser rangefinders and airbursting ammunition, so it would be possible to use these vehicles in a counter-UAV role. It might take some additional equipment in some cases”
– laser range-finding might be a bit “rich” if and when it is not there for other reasons
– but thermal sights (cheap!) and lots of MGs (cheap, again) on appropriate mounts, to make the defences pervasive… once you force the drones up, they
– will become more expensive (the sensors need to be better), and
– we already have the systems (though not in numbers) to take them down

October 9, 2011 10:31 pm


Obviously you would have to fit the Metal Storm system to some kind of radar and movable mounting!

The point I’m trying to make is that a metal storm system could fire that 4x4ft wall of lead…. and then another one a half second later… and so on and so forth, all the while tracking the missile and adjusting it’s fire.

October 9, 2011 10:42 pm

The cheap-ness and simplicity out of the window then?

October 10, 2011 12:43 am

For CIWS on a ship? There is no cheap way of doing that. A Metal storm unit on a vehicle could probably do optical guidance, with a bit of training.

October 10, 2011 2:41 am


Are we talking cheap easily purchased UAV’s used by terrorists / irregulars (I thought the thread was) or more sophisticated capabilities fielded by neer peers / peers ?

Ref: “Jam a uav, it can land and have its drives pulled in 30 seconds.”

If we are talking about el cheapo systems, how can it do this ? It ‘may’ have the autonomy and the smarts to react to jamming by flying to a pre-set waypoint and land, the bad guys may be able to remove the hard drives to access imagery, but now its been degraded to a non-real time recce asset, not a real-time targetting asset – in effect a “mission kill”.

Same for home on jam – that is usually a reference to a mode of radars, that they can home on a jammer using their radar receiver. I have never actually heard of any weapons system with a “home on jam” capability at radio frequencies, does not mean they don’t exist, but I doubt they will be fielded by the envisaged enemies, and they would probably be expensive too.

It is more usual in land combat to DF the jammer and hit it with artillery (depending on its avaialability and the priority for fires).

So dont discount “soft kill” so quickly :-)

October 10, 2011 8:29 am

Irregulars are never gouing to have hundreds of UAVs to deploy, but I dislike planning to fight irregulars.
A regular army could do as I say, and be an absolute PITA to counter.

It takes me less than 30 seconds to take the case off and pop out the drive on my PC when my electric screw driver is charged, cant see why it would be any harder on a UAV.

Does it matter hugely if its an hour delayed?
Its no longer as good, but as I said earlier, I remember reading complaints, I’m sure from Afghanistan, that tornado recce was taking three days to make its way back to the Patrol bases, and as such, was useless.
6 hours, not brilliant, but a vast improvement. And this assumes they are just recce varients, arm a few, and you’ve got problems.

I was unaware of the specifics of “home on jam”, just aware of the concept, be even so, a big arse radio transmitting blanketing our radio frequencies cant be something we dont deal with already.

October 10, 2011 11:05 pm

As far as the cheap tactical ISTAR ones go, they’ll be hard to shoot down. Isn’t the answer to accept that and have better ones?

The strike ones, I think, are favoured by the War on Terror context where the target is one bloke and nobody seems to shoot back.

October 11, 2011 9:37 am

Has anyone seen this Wired Dangerroom article?

American UAV’s infected with virus…

“A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Had to happen sooner or later I guess.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
October 11, 2011 4:46 pm

What concerns me is that, if you have the capability to build/deploy a UAV, that far exceeds the ability to build an RC aeroplane with a GPS/INS and a decent sized bomb in it and send it off on a none way trip down a pre-planned route. Such a device, whilst not as flexible as HAROP or Fireshadow, could prove a real nuisance in the wrong hands. It would also be much harder to shoot down as it wouldn’t be loitering about overhead but arriving relatively fast and low, using terrain masking to limit its exposure to defences.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
October 11, 2011 6:43 pm

@ AndyW – Skynet!

On a more serious note, this is the downside of going hi-tech. Cyber-security is going to be hugely important.

October 11, 2011 10:46 pm
Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
October 11, 2011 11:43 pm

I have heard tales of the more tech savvy equipping RC helicopters with webcams, providing real-time images. Obviously very basic and easy to detect/jam but I don’t think it would take much to get more reliable/secure.

October 27, 2011 5:26 pm

TD mentioned CAMM/FLAADS at the beginning. Rather than proliferating multiple solutions for multiple threats, CAMM seems to be a neat one-size-fits-all solution for a variety of threats from UAV’s to cruise missiles, popup helos and low flying FBA. Based on existing tech, modular design, low risk and adaptable, it’s just ASRAAM (proven) with a different seeker screwed on the end. Cost savings across the land, maritime and air domains would make this a good idea.