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Under mounting pressure to keep its massive budget in check, the Pentagon is looking to cheaper, smaller weapons to wage war in the 21st century.
A new generation of weaponry is being readied in clandestine laboratories across the nation that puts a priority on pintsized technology that would be more precise in warfare and less likely to cause civilian casualties. Increasingly, the Pentagon is being forced to discard expensive, hulking, Cold War-era armaments that exact a heavy toll on property and human lives.At L-3 Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, technicians work in secure rooms developing a GPS guidance system for a 13-pound “smart bomb” that would be attached to small, low-flying drone.
Engineers in Simi Valley at AeroVironment Inc. are developing a mini-cruise missile designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack, be fired from a mortar and scour the battlefield for enemy targets.
And in suburban Portland, Ore. Voxtel Inc. is concocting an invisible mist to be sprayed on enemy fighters and make them shine brightly in night-vision goggles.
These miniature weapons have one thing in common: They will be delivered with the help of small robotic planes. Drones have grown in importance as the Pentagon has seen them play a vital role in Iraq, Afghanistan and reportedly in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Now, engineers in Southern California and elsewhere are refining drone technology to deliver a powerful wallop with increasingly smaller robotic planes — many of which resemble model aircraft buzzing around local parks.
… This work is aimed primarily at one buyer —the Pentagon, which is seeking a total of $671 billion for fiscal 2012. Of that, drones represent $4.8 billion, a small but growing segment of the defense budget — and that doesn’t include spending on robotic weapons technology in the classified portion of the budget. …
A sleek, delta-winged robotic jet took to the skies for the first time above the Mojave Desert at Edwards Air Force Base.
Boeing Co.’s experimental drone, dubbed Phantom Ray, flew to 7,500 feet and reached speeds of 205 mph in its first flight. The 17-minute flight took place April 27, but Boeing officials did not confirm details until Tuesday.
The Phantom Ray, which resembles a giant boomerang, is being developed by the Chicago company for a variety of missions. Its stealthy design could enable it to slip behind enemy lines to knock out radar installations, clearing the way for fighters and bombers.
via LA Times