The weakest armor of tanks or any other armored vehicle is usually on top. This is why many anti-tank weapons are designed with top-attack capabilities in mind. But you know what else can hover over an enemy’s armor and doesn’t cost much? Drones!
Alare Technologies is an American company, which is developing unmanned aerial solutions for civilian, commercial, and military applications. BLADE-55 is one of its latest projects, which is also an entirely new anti-tank weapon concept. The drone itself can be used to carry several different loads and perform different tasks. However, this time we will focus on its anti-tank capabilities.
BLADE-55 is a quadcopter drone with a load capacity of 20 lbs (almost 9.1 kg). It is relatively inexpensive (compared to other combat drones) and, of course, can take off and land vertically. It can operate in GPS-denied areas, which are usually protected by means of electronic warfare, such as mobile jammers. It is reusable, which further reduces its operational costs-per shot, compared to the so-called kamikaze-drones (loitering munitions), which are also targeting tanks and other armored equipment.
BLADE-55 is armed with 2 M72 LAW launchers. It is a US-developed anti-tank weapon, made by the Norwegian NAMMO. M72 LAW is a 66 mm one-shot anti-tank weapon with an effective range of 200-220 meters. Because BLADE-55 has two such disposable launchers, it can engage two targets during one flight.
Again, this is a huge advantage over loitering-munitions, which get destroyed as soon as they are used. BLADE-55 can be re-armed and used again. The drone has an open development architecture that allows for easy integration of new solutions into it. This means that in the future M72 LAW launchers can be replaced with new weapons.
At the moment Alare Technologies is still testing the BLADE-55 system. It will probably be some time until it’s developed to a quality worthy of commercialization. But it shouldn’t take too long, since the drone is relatively simple and flight-tested and M72 LAW anti-tank weapons have been in use since 1973. In fact, countries that have these weapons in their arsenals (and there are a lot of them) are likely to be the ones interested in BLADE-55.
Sources: Alare Technologies , Wikipedia