General Dynamics and the U.S. Army have demonstrated the use of precision-guided mortar rounds from a small unmanned aerial vehicle.
In three test engagements 81mm mortar rounds — equipped a Roll Control Fixed Canard control system from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems — were launched from a Tiger Shark UAV at an altitude of about 7,000 feet.
The rounds, which featured a fusing solution from the U.S. Army Armament Research and Development Engineering Center, were guided to within 23 feet of a GPS-identified target grid.
Nifty. And I think we’ll see more and more of this. We’re used to seeing Predators and Reapers carrying weapons, but this is intended for the small tactical UAVs not just tasked to support at the battalion and brigade level, but actually operated as organic assets at those levels. And while an 81mm mortar isn’t the most powerful warhead around, this will give the commander a very quick response weapon to fleeting high value targets. For instance, if a patrol is pinned down by an enemy machine gun nest, this could quickly suppress or destroy it, saving lives and restoring freedom of maneuver. And since the UAV provides eyes on the target, it gives commanders a level of positive control that traditional fires don’t.
I’m curious, however, what modifications had to be made to the guidance/fuzing system. Modern mortar fuzes are “safe” until the g-forces of firing arm them. How do they adapt to that from an air-launched mode? Not an insurmountable problem, I’m sure. Just curious.
And it seems the world of aerial weapons is coming full circle. The very first aerial bombs were adaptations of artillery and mortar rounds during World War I.*
*And in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a lack of a suitable armor piercing aerial bomb led the IJN to modify 16″ AP gun shells to bombs, used with good effect along Battleship Row.