The US Army is considering multiple vendors to produce different variants of its new anti-tank kamikaze drones.
Last month, the service unveiled its new Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance (LASSO) program to provide soldiers with a portable loitering munition to penetrate light or heavily-armored enemy vehicles.
An urgent capability acquisition pathway is being used to quickly deliver the kamikaze drones to infantry brigade combat teams.
To leverage competition, the army is considering having more than one unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) version to address various air defense needs.
Having multiple variants helps boost production capacity and meet potential demand, according to US Army Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Doug Bush.
“There are a lot of companies in that space,” he told reporters this week without specifying possible variants.
The LASSO Drone
The LASSO is a man-portable loitering munition consisting of three parts: a launch tube, a powerful UAV, and a fire-control station.
It immediately searches for targets on the ground when it leaves the launch tube.
The drone has an advanced electro-optical and infrared sensor to allow operators to see the battlefield below.
According to the Program Executive Office Soldier, the new capability responds to a request to fire on an enemy by flying to where friendly troops report the presence of enemy tanks.
Once a target is detected, the LASSO drone swoops down and smashes it with a powerful anti-tank warhead.
The US Army expects the new UAV to be operational in 2024.
Learning Lessons From Ukraine
The US Army’s decision to start looking for a new tank-busting drone comes as the country closely watches Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has been using powerful tanks to make quick advancements, but Western-supplied loitering munitions are helping Kyiv counter such attempts.
According to Bush, early increments of the LASSO might resemble “some of the things” sent to the war-torn nation.
Washington has delivered various drones to Ukraine, including AEVEX’s Phoenix Ghost and AeroVironment’s Switchblade.