Light anti-personnel drone enters service in Türkiye

According to the Hurriet Daily News website, the Turkish armed forces are about to put into service a new type of armed drone. But it is not a MALE drone or a tactical drone equipped with missiles or guided bombs, but SONGAR quadcopter using a light machine gun 5,56 mm and possibly a 40 mm grenade launcher, making it a weapon intended for use against personnel, not infrastructure or vehicles.

Presented by the Turkish manufacturer Asisguard on the occasion of the IDEX 2019 exhibition, the SONGAR is designed to engage infantry forces, in particular to eliminate enemy fire support points during critical deployment phases such as when disembarking an armored vehicle, for example. The drone can be operated up to 10 km from its control station, and reach an altitude of 2800 m. It carries, in addition to the aforementioned armaments, 200 5,56mm cartridges to feed the machine gun, a laser rangefinder, and an optronic control and aiming system. Its autonomy would reach 20 minutes when fully charged. The SONGAR remains controlled by a command station, but it has a certain autonomy of evolution allowing a single station to control and direct up to 3 drones.

This is the first time that a “Western” army has announced the entry into service of such a drone with exclusive anti-personnel vocation. Not, moreover, that the Songar is unique in its kind. European manufacturers, and particularly French ones, have been offering for several years light drones modified to carry all kinds of weapons, ranging from 9mm pistols to RPG-14 anti-tank rocket launchers, including light machine guns (6,56 mm ), medium (7,62mm) and heavy (12,7mm), various types of grenades and rockets, as well as explosive charges that can be dropped or detonated. But the subject is ignored by the European and American armies and major defense industries, fearing a media frenzy around the famous “killer robots”. However, fundamentally, these armed drones only provide more mobility to automatic systems that have existed since the 60s, such as the automatic machine guns which protected the No Mans Land on the Soviet side separating East and West Berlin.

rheinmetall mission master ugv warmate uav 1170x610 1 Defense News | small arms | Defense institutional communication
European light drones are designed to engage vehicles or infrastructure, like the Warmate here as an example.

In fact, until today, it is secondary Industrial and Technological Bases which have positioned themselves on these technologies, knowing moreover that the main market for these light armed drones is made up of developing countries, or well-known governments. to be authoritarian (reasons why the field enjoys a sometimes sulphurous reputation).

But new players are now positioning themselves, providing much greater financial, technological and marketing resources. Besides Turkey and its SONGAR, Ukraine, Russia, India and especially China have undertaken such developments for several years. Even theUS Army seems to have taken the plunge. And the light armed drones produced by these industries have operational potential much higher than those existing until now, whether through the use of much more efficient materials and batteries, integration of embedded artificial intelligence, much more precise optronic and aiming means, and massive cooperation capabilities between drones to evolve “swarms of armed drones”, potentially impossible to stop today.

swarms of drones are one of the multiple applications of military artificial intelligence Defense News | small arms | Defense institutional communication
A swarm of light armed drones is today virtually impossible to stop, except by remaining protected under thick armor.

The fact remains that it will be more than difficult for a major industrialist, whether French or European, to invest in this area independently, even by relying on the existing assets of one or more “artisanal” players. The risks of seeing an NGO or a press organization seize the subject for its symbolic dimension are, in fact, very significant. However, the tactical contribution of this equipment is very important, whether for carrying out suppression fire during tactical movements, searching for and engaging snipers, intensifying fire, or taking on an adversary. cut off, to cite only the most trivial examples. Difficult, in these conditions, to leave an adversary, his allies and potential clients, with a tactical advantage also decisive around questions that are more fancied than reasoned. In fact, it is becoming as essential as it is urgent that public bodies, such as the DGA, AID or PESCO at the European level, quickly take up the subject so as not to reproduce the same situation as that which persists today at the level of MALE and HALE drones in Europe.

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