back to article US forces developing 'miniature weapons' for killer robots

US Air Force boffinry chiefs have decided to spend as much as $7m developing "miniature weapons" for use by killer robots in the Wars On Stuff. Weaponry'n'aerospace globocorp Boeing was chuffed yesterday to announce that it had bagged an initial $0.5m deal to look into ideas, which will lead on into another $6.5m of work if …


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  1. Rob


    It's getting closer, they are talking about the little mini-missiles and such like used by the flying killbots in T3.

    I for one am running away from our new miniaturised killing overlords, come with me if you want to live.

  2. lukewarmdog


    Away with million dollar missile systems, snakes are cheap and reliable. Fill your torpedo tubes with snakes and save money and have a laugh at your enemys expense at the same time.

    Seems to me that sometimes the big rocket is ideal, the collateral damage takes out your targets friends and family, business associates etc. which is surely not a bad thing from a military point of view.

    However for something more precise do we really need an explosion at all? If your target is outside then can't we just fire pins at them?

    It's all just bows and arrows really, just very very expensive, non-recoverable arrows.

    Simpler solutions for todays economic climate need to be found.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  4. Trevor Watt

    The answer is easy!

    Just put less explosive into the Hellfire! Less bang, less damage. It would be simple enough to ballast for the weight too, just use an inert filler like in the training rounds.

    Or just miniaturise the Hellfire, technology has moved on a lot since they were brought into service.

  5. Richard 81


    Or it could be used to put a little more punch in those remote-controlled desktop SAM site executive toys I know some of you have.

  6. exit...quit...bye...quitbye.ctrl-C..ctrlX.ctrl-alt-X...aarrrr*slam*

    reinvent the wheel

    Of course, a range extended recoilless rifle would certainly do the trick, but this would not warrant a 7M $ contract...

  7. Georgees


    The Nikita Missile. Finally.

  8. Dirk Koopman

    knife missiles

    Read Iain Banks for more info...

  9. Trygve Henriksen

    Of course they need a missile!

    Recoilless rifles, 2.75" rockets and whatnot all have a problem; the projectile goes in a straight line.(well, allowing for gravity, wind and lowest bidder, of course)

    Sure, a sniper can compensate for this when taking potshots at targets of up to 2000Meters, but is that possible when dealing with the signal delays in a remotely operated system like a Predator?

    And if your target is in a 4WD in a desert or field, where he doesn't have to follow a narrow lane?

    It's bl**dy difficult to predict where he'll be when the projectile catches up with him.

    Remember, even at supersonic speed, it will take some time for a projectile to hit a target at the range that the Predator is designed for. (It's big, not too fast, and not exactly suited for sudden evasive maneuvers. In other words; a sitting duck if it gets close enough to be spotted)

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    Reinventing the wheel?

    Something wrong with the Thor system is there?

    A single, small booster which accelerates three individually and autonomously homed tungsten-headed mini-missiles towards the target before letting 'em loose to do their stuff. All with fully-autonomous threat detection/decision/launch capability to boot. Guaranteed to completely ruin the day of any supersonic ground attack aircraft* that strays within range. Currently comes in a van, but I reckon the multiple launcher turret should fit on a sensibly sized 'droid and the electronics could shrink down to a suitable size once all the bulky accoutrements for fleshy operators were removed.

    *Or anything slower lacking heavy armour of course.

  11. Justabloke 1

    you know from...

    ... a warfighters [sic] POV lots of lovely colateral damage is a good thing but from a PR pov its a bit of a bummer. taking out the target and all his mates is the correct thing to do, militarily speaking.... after all we all know that if you don't kill the bad guy's mate he'll hunt you down!

  12. Rob 30


    i'm a bit surprised that they do actually use tank busting missiles against individuals.. although as people have pointed out, more damage is not necessarily bad depending on your point of view. it does seem like an expensive way to go about it..

    they have some really fancy long range cameras nowdays, as demonstrated on various wildlife programmes, would it be feasable to add a gun to the stabilised mount & have some sort of flying sniper bot? -no collateral damage, nice and cheap..

    i do like the idea of a robotic hot air balloon with a basket full of venomous snakes waiting to be released on the target's head next time they step outside though

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    used to be a 45cal sized pistol that used mini-rockets. Can simply upsize them to be used.

    Upsize can also allow with todays tech to add guidance to them.

  14. Secretgeek

    Should that be...

    "Weaponry'n'aerospace globocorp...."




  15. The First Dave Silver badge

    @Trevor Watt

    How much do you think DARPA are expecting for a lousy half-mil? That's barely enough to buy a full-sized hellfire at retail prices. Presumably DARPA like to make things look good, but otherwise I think their brief would have been as simple as: "Give us a design for a 1/10th scale hellfire. Soon." I am pretty sure that everyone in the business who read the brief knew that was what was required.

  16. Trevor Watt

    @ The First Dave

    Actually you would get about eight full-size Hellfires for half a million dollars.

  17. Graham Bartlett

    80s film "Runaway"

    Anyone remember it? Primarily it's memorable for the robot spider critters. But the bad guy also had a gun that fired mini-missiles keyed to a person's body heat signature. Not a new concept, just a new implementation.

  18. Dave Bell

    Small change

    What I think DARPA are looking for is some solid work on just how small the guidance can be--not just the electronics but the mechanical actuators (though the old Dragon ATGW (is it still in service) did things differently).

    Actually fielding a new missile system is much more expensive, but this will give them some hard figures for what is possible, and what might need the application of DARPA's special talents for Mad Science.

    And all that will feed into the general development of future missiles and aircraft.

  19. Ian Ferguson


    I was hoping that 'miniature weapons' meant teeny tiny guns to be held in the claws of insect-sized surveillance droids.

    Pop! Pop! Pop! OW, stoppit!

  20. Desk Jockey

    Loiter with intent!

    Aha I see their cunning plan. It is to develop something with a neat guidance package and enough punch to do the job and for a fraction of the weight of the Hellfire. No need to invent anything new, just find all the minaturised electronics already in existence and implement the plan to get it all working together. Just what you need in today's counter-insurgency environment.

    This means those UAVs don't use so much fuel carrying all that ordnance, can loiter above the target area for longer and with quite a few missiles to boot. Soon those soldiers with have their own personal Reapers loitering above them and can stack up their targets in a firefight using a computer. "I have 15 identified targets, please launch in priority order from 1-15... and let's keep missle 16 handy for the mime!"

  21. Robert Hill

    Sniping is HARD...

    all the comments about using a projectile are apparently all from people that only see sniping in movies or in computer games. In real-life, it is HARD. And annoyinigly range limited. A Barrett 50caliber sniper rifle has accuracy out to about 1400 yards in combat. The Hellfire II can hit from 600 yards to 8000 yards. The difference in ranges is the difference in the drone staying covert or not staying covert - and remember that the range has to include both a horizontal component and the vertical component of the drone's height.

    Also that 1400 yard range is from a stable platform, off a bi-pod. From a moving aircraft, your reliability of actually hitting the target will be much lower, especially as the windage issues are multiplied with different air currents at different heights - plus the effect of the drone's own airstream must be compensated for.

    It would be cool if they could put a 50cal in a drone, but I suspect that it is just too hard and exposes the drone to counter attack due to the range.

    Now, a 50cal in a DIRIGIBLE, floating noiselessly and slowly at night, with a night vision TV scope...much cheaper, you could have a cloud of them hovering over a target area that could decend to 500 meters at night, they could even be autonomous and engage anything that they detected (like say in some remote areas known for hiding caves and Al Queda members...). Note to anyone building these - ensure the rifle is permanantly disabled in the event of a dirigible crash or failure...I suggest a small charge in the breech that can be remotely detonated, or even that detonates itself upon loss of control signal.

  22. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I don't know why people are complaining...

    ...about the constitution being used as toilet paper but have no problem cracking one off about newfangled COIN insurgency toolups.

    To make my position 100% clear: These things won't only be used to blow Ahmed's and his Panzerfaust donkey's ass to smithereens. They will be used to plaster your innards against the living room ceiling and open your kid's braincases.

    Enjoy your regime change.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    lasers so old school.

    cant they be made to home in on cell phones or something, that way the government can also use mini kill missiles on citizens who download an mp3 or something.

  24. Brian Miller

    $7 on bottle rockets?

    So they want something smaller. OK, how about a small powered glider that fires bottle rockets? Deliver a 2-pound rocket with the explosive force of a hand grenade. Equip it with a .22LR rifle for shooting. It doesn't matter if it falls into enemy hands because it only holds ten shots in the first place, and these guys have AK47s anyways. Glide it in, drop the payload, bring it out.

  25. Mike Richards

    @ The First Dave

    'How much do you think DARPA are expecting for a lousy half-mil? That's barely enough to buy a full-sized hellfire at retail prices.'

    As that great sage Opus the Penguin once said 'Physicists need Porsches too!'

  26. DV Henkel-Wallace
    Paris Hilton

    Mini weapons?

    Oh gosh, how CUTE!!!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Money well spent

    Am I the only one who thinks that if instead of spending the BILLIONS of dollars poured into making things to kill people we spent them on making them our FRIENDS instead (I dunno, PR, TV shows, clean water, taking them all out to lunch more...) we might actually just have a bit of a nicer world??

  28. Peter Clarke 1

    Going LoTech

    Just seen a BBC programme about the source of rare earth elements used in the guidance/control electronics (and next gen cars). The only producer/exporter is China and in about 20 years time their demand will mean no exports. Could be the blimp/sniper combination will be the long term solution (if that is OK with the Chinese govt!)

  29. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @Graham Bartlett , @Dave Bell, @Destroy All Monsters

    @Graham Bartlett


    Certainly do. Gene Simmons gun did come to mind as the sort of thing they might have in mind. BTW the sensor in the rounds matches the spec for the US Army's current Javelin k missile (64x64). Runaway was made in 1984. Javelin was fielded in 1996.

    @Dave Bell

    "What I think DARPA are looking for is some solid work on just how small the guidance can be"

    Seem likely. With weapon grade,chip sized accelerometers and gyroscopes and GPS systems e on the miliary market the sensing side seems well covered. But changing a projectiles flight means excerting substantial forces, which don't scale well. "Power MEMS" is much less developed. The M47 Dragon's use of pulses of solid propellant for thrust and steering was a neat hack. At least one micro-rocket project has produced silicon encapsulated propellant packs fired by IR laser (Si is IR transparent but airtight). NB Dragon was not too fast (c100ms) or long ranged (1500m) as an ATGW. Operators had to control it to the target., a *very* long 15s if someone is shooting at you. The Iranians appear to have reverse engineered a version of it.

    @Destroy All Monsters

    "about the constitution being used as toilet paper but have no problem cracking one off about newfangled COIN insurgency toolups"

    Quite right. If this programme does produce a system it would likely be on most SWAT teams shopping lists, along with some of the quieter surveillance drones. The dream of the truly "surgical " strike. And no doubt it would prove popular with other government agencies. So neat, discrete and petite.

    You can guess what DVD's in my coat pocket

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