Predators deliver smaller munitions to target

Goal is to reduce civilian casualties

Predator unmanned aerial vehicles are being outfitted with smaller munitions to avoid collateral damage, reports John Barry in a Newsweek blog.

A drop in civilian casualties in the war against terrorists being waged in Afghanistan and insurgent havens in Pakistan can be attributed to several things, including better intelligence about targets, more cautious controls on strikes, and smaller munitions, Defense Department, counterterror and industry sources speaking on background told Newsweek.

The Predator UAV, which carries out the strikes, uses as its standard rocket the Hellfire missile. Because the Hellfire missile’s 20-lb. warhead is so powerful—it can demolish an entire building and kill everyone inside it—the U.S. military is now using an alternate missile when it wants more precision and a smaller kill zone.

“One is like a big bomb (the standard Hellfire) which destroys everything, including buildings, and tears people into small pieces. The other is less destructive, killing only those in the immediate vicinity,” a jihadi who has observed both told Newsweek.

The smaller missile, defense sources confirmed, is the Griffin, a 13-lb. warhead developed by Raytheon specifically for the Predator. The Griffin is so compact that a Predator can carry three for every one Hellfire missile.

In the meantime, Lockheed Martin, which makes the Hellfire, is continuing efforts to scale back its Hellfire missile when smaller strikes are required. The company has recently developed a multipurpose Hellfire warhead that can be reprogrammed in flight depending on the target, a company spokesman told Newsweek.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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