U.S. Army researchers have packed a net into a 40mm grenade so they can take down enemy drones.
The new invention, which was patented on Tuesday, brings high-tech engineering to the tried-and-true grenade launchers common among U.S. military and law enforcement units.
“As the round nears the target, a signal from a control board activates a servo. The servo pulls on a central lock plunger to release a ball mechanism. This releases the ogive section, which in turn allows the ejection spring means to eject the petals and weights along with the net stowed there within,” according to the patent (a PDF of the entire patent is linked at the bottom of this story).
The new warhead was invented by Tomasz Blyskal, Richard Fong, and LaMar Thompson of the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
Initial testing showed that their round outperforms other net-centric counter-drone tactics like dragging a net from another larger drone, according to the Army, because that requires trained pilots and doesn’t work when trying to “ensnare many, or swarms of drones.”
Disabling small, unmanned drones, which are now widely available to the public, is a problem for civilian officials and military commanders.
Last month, takeoffs and landings were delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport after two pilots observed a drone in the airspace. And unauthorized drones caused major delays for three days at London’s Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second largest airport, in December 2018.
Army officials are preparing tactics, techniques, and procedures for field units that encounter such drones. Using conventional surface-to-air weapons like shoulder-fired missiles designed to target piloted aircraft may be overkill and are relatively expensive.
But small, mobile ground units already include grenadiers equipped with M320 launchers who could easily carry dozens of the new 40mm rounds to take out small drones from hundreds of yards away. Cavalry units, anti-tank sections, and heavy weapons companies that employ the Mk-19 grenade launcher could also use the new round from even greater distances.
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Correction: an earlier version of this story identified the nomenclature of the Army’s portable grenade launcher as M302. It has been corrected to M320.