Sun May 21, 2017 12:33AM
AeroVironment's Puma AE Unmanned Aircraft System being launched by a US soldier. (File photo)
AeroVironment's Puma AE Unmanned Aircraft System being launched by a US soldier. (File photo)

The US military has reportedly been supplied with inexpensive “kamikaze drones” for use by its special operations troops in the purported battle against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

In its Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) requested 325 “Miniature Aeria Missile Systems” or LMAMS by this summer,  the delivery of which has already been completed, US-based Defense One reported.

According to the report, SOCOM has just received 350 of the so-called switchblades -- a tube-launched drones outfitted with cameras and cursor-on-target GPS navigation -- which can be fired from “handheld bazooka-like launchers.”

It cited officials of the California-based company, AeroVironment, which manufactures the drones, further adding that they “can be operated manually or autonomously.”

The drone can fly for about 15 minutes, at up to 100 miles per hour.

The report further cited Army Colonel John Reim, who outfits special operations troops as head of SOCOM’s Warrior program office, as saying that he needs missile drones that can blow up bigger targets.

File photo of a US soldier with a hand-launched drone.

“We have a good capability right now with the Switchblade. But it’s got a smaller payload. How do you get a little larger?” Reim asled. “We’re trying to create organic firepower and situational awareness in so many of the places we operate in.”

According to SOCOM commander General Ray Thomas, the US military is not alone in developing the new lethal drones, alleging that “ISIL weaponeers” based in Mosul, Iraq, have converted “an off-the-shelf rotary-wing quadcopter” into a flying 40 mm weapon.

SOCOM has begun working with the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab to convert the devices US troops use to detect an jam improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into drone jammers. 

“The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab was able to really help us out,” said Reim. “We’ve made some initial progress. I’ve got an initial capability out now.”

The development comes amid continued US military involvement in Iraq and multiple incidents, in which American forces have targeted Iraqi troops and volunteer defense forces during their operations against ISIL terrorists, triggering protests and calls for US troop ouster from the country, so far to no avail.