McKinney, Texas — Mounting inexpensive cameras onto missiles and having them fly loops in the sky may sound like a recipe for disaster, but they may provide troops with a better — and perhaps cheaper — alternative to unmanned aerial vehicles, experts argue.
“We’ve got a couple of missiles now that can go up there and sit in a loiter pattern. Of course, it’s a one-way UAV,” says Mark Hall, senior mission solutions manager at Raytheon.
The company conducted a “hardware-in-the-loop” demonstration in Tucson, Ariz., last fall. It sent a simulated Tomahawk missile outfitted with a camera into a loiter pattern above a target area. The missile took photos and sent the information back to a centralized network.
Such a capability would be advantageous for a tactical commander on the field conducting battle damage assessment, says Hall. If a target were not yet eliminated, the missile could then be deployed as a lethal weapon, he says.
“That makes the war fighter that much more efficient and hopefully more effective in prosecuting objectives,” says Hall.
Not every missile needs to carry a lethal package on board, he points out.
“In some cases, you might put a missile up there without a warhead. You just use the chassis and the dynamic capabilities of being able to send it forward into the battle space at a very high rate of speed, then ditch it to some safe area when it’s done with its command and control mission or communications mission,” says Hall.