A New Drone Aims for Precision

The so-called Kamikaze drone is meant to crash into individual targets

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The key to controlling and limiting collateral damage from the U.S. military's drone warfare operations may be this simple: crash the vehicle into the target.

The craft that military insiders call the "Kamikaze drone" is meant to be flown directly into its target — a single enemy fighter, for instance — and detonated. That new approach could help to eliminate one of the largest problems with the military's new reliance on drones to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and the Middle East, namely that missile strikes frequently miss their targets, or kill innocent bystanders in attempts to kill terrorists.

Enter the Switchblade, which The Daily sums up this way: "Think of it as a smart, remote-control grenade with wings."

Increasingly a mainstay of modern warfare and widely credited by defense officials as the key tool in winning the war on terror, drones offer significant benefits — most notably, keeping American troops out of harm’s way. But the existing models are also renowned for their potential to both miss targets entirely and, often in the process of killing a single person, yield devastating collateral damage.

Switchblade would minimize that drawback, and improve the chances that military personnel hit the correct target. As personnel monitor the Switchblade’s trajectory in real-time, they can call off detonation with mere seconds to spare. And a smaller, more localized explosion means fewer incidental deaths.

“With missiles, you fire and forget,” Gitlin said. “Now, you can make sure you hit the bad guy without hurting the people next door, or pull back if a group of kids walk onto the balcony.”

Making it easier to hit targets with remote-controlled weaponry will help U.S. officials if they're seeking to continue (or to expand) their use against terrorism. They will do little to help resolve the debate about whether or not the military should be fighting its wars this way at all.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.