Switchblade - Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS)
Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) is a single man-portable/operable, light-weight organic, beyond line-of-sight, precision guided, loitering aerial missile system capable of locating and engaging obscured and/or fleeting enemy targets who otherwise cannot be engaged by typical direct fire weapon systems.
Engaging the enemy effectively without a clear line-of-sight is an ongoing challenge for Soldiers serving in small, outlying posts in theater. One solution is the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS), a not-within-direct-fire- line-of-sight, single-use munition system that is launched from a small tube. The entire system is carried in a Soldier’s backpack. Equipped with optical sensors, LMAMS transmits live color video wirelessly to a display on a ground control unit. The technology allows the Soldier to find the enemy and ensure positive identification before engaging. LMAMS deploys within two-minutes and can fly for up to fifteen minutes.
The original intent for LMAMS -- a small, Soldier-launched loitering precision weapons system -- was to destroy combatant enemies such as snipers or those emplacing improvised explosive devices. This system not only allows Soldiers on the ground to engage with targets they cannot see, but can potentially be used to counter threat unmanned aircraft systems. This guided weapons system can fly to a specific coordinated position or be diverted with its wave-off capabilities to minimize collateral damage.
Although the aerial munition is designed for non-line-of-sight targets, it’s categorized as a direct fire asset. When the munition reaches the target, the cameras on LMAMS allow the Soldier to have “eyes on” the target, which provides the required positive identification. If the situation or target changes, then the operator can wave the munition off and either continue to view or re-approach the target or look for a secondary target.
It is one of the few — if not the only — munition that can be moved off of its intended target, directed to a safe place, and detonated or destroyed after it is launched. There is no other munition in the inventory that allows us to do this in real time and with such precision. It limits unintended casualties and collateral damage. LMAMS allowed Soldiers to engage the enemy in the open, in narrow village corridors, or where other civilians are present within a small radius of where the target is to be engaged or neutralized. In instances where the primary target has been lost, the Soldier has been able to divert the munition to a secondary target or detonate, preventing civilian casualties.
Front and Side Look High Resolution Electro-Optical (day) and Front Look Infrared (night) cameras allow the Warfighter to have “eyes on” the target for positive identification. LMAMS’ Wave-Off capability allows the operator to wave-off or re-direct the LMAMS flight path up to seconds prior to impact if necessary. The system is comprised of a fire control unit, launcher, missile, and a modular payload capable of high lethality against unprotected Combatant Personnel and Fractional Casualty against Personnel in Soft Skinned Vehicles. Pre-flight Component Assembly and Storage allows operation within a matter of minutes.
LMAMS is the product of an Army requirement submitted to the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) in January 2011. The request for an improved aerial munitions system was based on the results of a limited Block 1 Switchblade assessment, completed in the fall of 2010. Switchblade was the most mature technical solution available at the time. LMAMS, the resulting upgraded capability, includes an enhanced day camera and the addition of an infrared camera for night operations.
The shaking out of the system included more than 100 test flights for the LMAMS. Once the test flights were completed, full-system munitions were produced and vetted through safety confirmation tests. The tests included limited environmental testing, electromagnetic interference testing and full, live firefight flight tests. Once LMAMS was deemed safe for use by Soldiers, the Army started equipping the system to support operations in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in August 2012.
In the House Armed Serviced Committee [HASC] report (H. Rept. 114-102) accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, the committee noted the effectiveness of the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) fielded in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) theater of operations, and supported the potential distribution of this capability across Army infantry units. The committee noted the Army requested a total of $63.5 million for 655 LMAMS as part of the fiscal year 2017 Overseas Contingency Operations request to address joint urgent operational needs in CENTCOM’s area of operations. The committee understands the LMAMS Capability Development Document had completed initial Army staff review, was revised by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Maneuver Center of Excellence, and was then considered by the Army Requirements Oversight Council for transition to a program of record. While the committee fully supported the Army’s request from fiscal year 2017 and the budget request for fiscal year 2018, the committee required additional details regarding the Army’s long-term acquisition strategy for LMAMS.
FY 2017 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) dollars in the amount of $4.777 million supported the procurement of 10 fire control units, 10 training simulators, 10 battery chargers, and 50 inert training missiles, along with fielding and program management in order to support pre-deployment training and sustain the capability required by Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement (JUONS) 0506 Mod 1. FY 2017 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Amendment dollars in the amount of $46.500 million support the additional procurement of 26 fire control units, 535 All Up Rounds, 26 fire control units, 26 training simulators, 36 battery chargers, 100 inert training missiles, and other support equipment, to include fielding and program management in order to support pre-deployment training and sustain the capability required by Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement (JUONS) CC-0556. JUONS 0556 requirements will be procured via competitive acquisition.
Under SBIR Phase II Enhancement AMRDEC (M) Contract W31P4Q-10-C-0295, American Energy Technologies Co. (AETC) focused on a primary battery with extended shelf-life targeted for Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS).Notable technical achievements include demonstration of an improved cylindrical cell Li/CFx-MnO2 chemistry with significant increase in power density and requisite low temperature performance that approaches the challenging LMAMS power and volume requirements.To overcome these remaining hurdles, AETC identified a novel true prismatic cell and accompanying battery design that can meet LMAMS physical and environmental parameters according to analysis.
Small missile seekers for applications such as Lethal Miniature Aerial Munitions System (LMAMS), lack functionality typically present in larger and more expensive missile seekers. Some missile seekers size, weight, power and cost (SWPaC) requirements prevent the use of gimbals for stabilization, reducing the performance of the seeker. Existing commercial image stabilization technology cannot meet missile environment and performance requirements. One example is the LMAMS, where the current state-of-the-art seeker design consist of a sensor in a strapdown design without gimbals or optical stabilization. MEMS can address the SWPaC requirements but typical controls for modern MEMS devices consist of integrated circuit cards and can use 50 watts of power or more depending on the size of the device.
Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) develops, integrates, and tests the Switchblade Multi-Pack Launcher (MPL). Multi-Pack Launcher provides the capability to launch up to 6 Switchblade missiles remotely in a Force Protection Environment. The mission for the MPL is to be placed in a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in a constant ready-to-use state to enable Soldiers to remain in the safety of a building while launching Switchblade missiles. There was no funding in FY19.
AeroVironment’s combat-proven Switchblade 300 provides conventional and special operations forces with a backpackable, rapidly deployable, loitering precision strike missile for use against beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) targets from mobile positions in the field or from fixed defensive positions for base security. This lethal missile can be operated manually or autonomously, and its small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range. Switchblade 300 provides the operator with real-time video and Cursor-on-Target GPS coordinates for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition. It is fully scalable and can be launched from a variety of air, sea, and ground platforms.
Supporting conventional or special operations forces in the field or from fixed defensive positions, the combat-proven Switchblade 300 with patented wave-off feature is the ideal loitering missile for use against beyond-line-of-sight targets. Backpackable and rapidly deployable from air, sea or ground platforms, Switchblade 300 delivers increased warfighter lethality with real-time GPS coordinates and video for precise targeting with low collateral effects.
The optional Switchblade 300 Sensor to Shooter (S2S) Kit allows operators to quickly update FalconView® on a ruggedized laptop. Once updated, the S2S software seamlessly transfers target coordinates from AeroVironment’s Puma™, Raven® or Wasp® to Switchblade 300, reducing engagement timelines and operator cognitive load.
Switchblade Sensor to Shooter (S2S) combines the superior ISR capabilities of AeroVironment’s small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) with the precision strike capabilities of the Switchblade loitering missile system. Through S2S software, target coordinates are instantly transferred from the SUAS to Switchblade via machine-to-machine communication, reducing engagement timelines and operator cognitive load. S2S provides Switchblade operators with real-time video downlinks for a centralized view of the area of operation and the ability to scene-match SUAS ISR and Switchblade 300 camera feeds on one screen.
Switchblade 600 represents the next generation of extended-range loitering missiles, delivering unprecedented RSTA support and featuring high-precision optics, over 40 minutes of loitering endurance, and an anti-armor warhead for engaging larger, hardened targets at greater distances.
As an all-in-one, man-portable solution, Switchblade 600 includes everything required to successfully plan and execute missions and can be set up and operational in less than 10 minutes. Equipped with class-leading, high-resolution EO/IR gimbaled sensors and advanced precision flight control, Switchblade 600 empowers the warfighter with quick and easy deployment via tube-launch, and the capability to fly, track and engage non-line-of-sight targets and armored vehicles with precision lethal effects without the need for external ISR or fires assets.
Patented wave-off and recommit capability allows operators to abort the mission at any time and then re-engage either the same or other targets multiple times based on operator command. Whether it’s from fixed defensive positions, combat vehicles with integrated organic precision fire, or air-launched applications, Switchblade 600 provides field commanders with a multi-mission loitering missile system capable of multi-domain operations.
On 04 November 2021 AeroVironment, Inc. announced it was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract on Sept. 28, 2021 by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for $20,321,973 for the procurement of Switchblade® 600 tactical missile systems (TMS). Delivery is scheduled to be completed by January 2023.
“Switchblade 600 is an all-in-one, man-portable tactical missile that provides warfighters with the capability to fly, track and engage non-line-of-sight targets and light-armored vehicles with precision lethal effects,” said Brett Hush, vice president and product line general manager for TMS. “The tube-launched, Switchblade 600 can be easily transported for deployment from fixed and mobile platforms in any environment, providing operators with superior force overmatch and minimizing exposure to direct and indirect enemy fires.”
AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600 is an all-in-one, man portable solution equipped with a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control and more than 40 minutes of flight time to deliver unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA). Its anti-armor warhead enables engagement and prosecution of hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles without external ISR or fires assets.
The LMAMS Switchblade Missile is accorded Category I protection as addressed in Department of Defense (DoD) 5100.76-M, (current revision), "Physical Security of Sensitive Conventional Arms, Ammunition, and Explosives." The LMAMS Switchblade Missile must be stored in facilities that are at least equivalent in strength to USG requirements. The purchaser also agrees to comply with U.S. Army specified requirements for lighting, doors, locks, keys, fencing, and surveillance and guard systems. Specific requirements must be agreed upon and installed prior to delivery of the missile system. USG representatives must be allowed to verify security measures and procedures established for implementation of these requirements.
Each month, the purchaser will perform a 100% physical inventory of rounds. A 100% physical inventory of rounds by serial number will be taken quarterly of weapons issued at the operational unit level. A 100% physical inventory of rounds by serial number will be taken semiannually of weapons stored or retained at installation, depot, post, or base level. To ensure verification, two authorized people will conduct all inventories. Rounds expended during peacetime must be accounted for by serial number.
In January 2022 the U.S. Army Contracting Command - Redstone Arsenal, AL (ACC-RSA) issued a sources sought synopsis as a means of conducting market research to identify parties having an interest in and the resources to produce a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS). All parties interested were to submit a White Paper describing the company and proposed capability solution.
The Army was seeking a capability that meets or exceeds set LMAMS threshold requirements described in attachment titled "LMAMS System Technical Requirements." These requirements are based on existing user requirements submitted as part of Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUON) and Operational Needs Statements (ONS).
The LMAMS is envisioned to be a loitering, precision-guided system, organic at the small unit level that enables engagement of enemy combatants without exposing the Warfighter to direct enemy fires. Notional LMAMS system components may consist of: (1) an all-up-round missile (includes airframe, sensors, integrated guidance, warhead, data link, and launcher) and (2) Fire Control Unit (providing functions such as data link, operator interface, and mission preparation and execution functions) that is notionally day/night readable, provides the user real time video and control of the missile. The operator can select predetermined targets using geo location reference, visually select and identify targets of opportunity, loiter, abort, abort and redirect, arm/disarm, and manually command warhead detonation.
The architecture for the LMAMS controller should be modular so it can be hosted by any future approved end user device or United States Army common controller. The training simulator device is embedded into the Fire Control Unit so that training does not require additional equipment other than the tactical hardware. Three distinct mission phases are (1) mission preparation, (2) fly out, and (3) terminal engagement.
All phases of the LMAMS operations must be accomplished by a single operator and configurable for dismounted or mounted patrolling operations. For mission preparation purposes, targeting information is provided to or by the operator and may consist of headings, geo location reference, or landmark information provided by direct observation from the operator, other observers, or by sensors and networks separate from LMAMS. Positive identification of the target shall be made prior to launch by these sources. The operator will use this information to perform mission preparation with the controller allowing man-in-the-loop flight to the area of interest. For the fly out, LMAMS must be launched quickly and fly an assigned route or path to a target area by a single operator.
LMAMS will be capable of loitering. In the terminal engagement phase, LMAMS will have the ability to automatically track a target designated by the operator or allow the operator to manually control the system as needed to focus on a specific area or point of interest. The system must have lethal effects against personnel and light-duty vehicles while minimizing collateral damage. LMAMS must have the ability to automatically lock on and track a stationary or moving target. Once a target is selected by the operator in the terminal phase of engagement, no further operator input shall be required.
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