Missile company Raytheon announced the deal, worth tens of millions of dollars, at Farnborough Airshow this morning.
The company’s Coyote drones are equipped with advanced seekers and fragmentation warheads. Combined with Raytheon’s KRFS Ku band radars, the drones can find and destroy a variety of enemy drones, from £200 off-the-shelf quadcopters to more sophisticated vehicles.
Drone attacks on soldiers are “probably the fastest-growing threat” on the battlefield, said Raytheon’s Joe DeAntona at the announcement. Launched from metres or hundreds of kilometres away, unmanned vehicles carrying explosives can kill and injure people and destroy military equipment.
To tackle the issue, up to eight Coyotes can be tube-launched from a single launcher. Operators can fire them from the ground, ships and even aircraft, and they feature modular attachments for different threats.
Raytheon showed journalists a compilation of successful tests, the drone-missiles completely destroying a range of vehicles.
“It’s actually a very challenging problem because target quadcopters can manoeuvre up, down, sideways,” said Raytheon vice-president Thomas Bussing. “There’s a lot of variability to how they operate. The ability to engage those is a significant challenge.”
Coyotes are adaptable for other missions including surveillance and electronic warfare. A highlighted “swarm” capability – sending multiple drones after multiple or single targets – also raised the possibility of co-ordinated explosive attacks.
Raytheon is also developing faster Coyote variants, shaped like more conventional missiles.
With an “urgent operational need” for defence against enemy drones, the US Army is expected to use Coyotes by the end of the year.
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