While experts debate whether or not North Korean missile launches were successful this week, U.S. weapons are so advanced that soldiers can now launch precision-guided munitions— by hand—and destroy enemy targets a mile and half away.
Raytheon is taking the sort of powerful, and amazingly accurate, weapons that are typically seen on vehicles and aircraft and putting them literally into the hands of dismounted military teams. Precision guidance, an advantage associated with advanced, large bombs and missiles, increases lethality while reducing collateral damage.
Dubbed Pike, it’s the world’s only hand-launched precision-guided munition, as Raytheon describes it. It will give ground troops precision firepower at more than six times the range of some RPGs— rocket propelled grenades— and with far greater precision.
Just under a foot and a half long, the laser-guided Pike weapon weighs only two pounds, but it punches well above its weight while providing that crucial precision guidance.
What can fire a Pike?
Grenade launchers. Fired from a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, this 40mm caliber weapon is designed to hit a specific target and ensure minimal collateral damage. Its current accuracy is within five yards at a distance of a mile and a half.
Pike can be fired from grenade launchers already regularly carried, like the single-shot 40 mm grenade-launching Heckler & Koch M320.
How does Pike work?
A team of two warfighters can deploy Pike working together. One warfighter designates the enemy target, and the other fires Pike.
The first soldier takes the laser designator device, which looks like a pistol, and points it at a target, like an enemy-held building or vehicle. Pike works best against targets that are stationary or slow moving at a mid-range distance.
Then the second soldier takes a rifle-mounted grenade launcher and fires the munition. To engage, Pike uses a digital, semi-active laser seeker.
In addition to precision and distance, another key advantage for ground troops is that they would no longer need to use a vehicle launcher for this effect. Pike gives them the ability to fire off some hefty precision firepower while dismounted.
How is it different?
Like it says in the name, RPGs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, use rockets. Pike is amped up with a rocket, too. But it has a longer range with better accuracy.
The M320, for example, has a maximum firing range of about 1300 feet— and for maximum accuracy, with a regular grenade, the range is limited to about 500 feet.
On the other hand, Pike can deliver accuracy at about 8000 feet— so that gives warfighters the power to destroy threats with precision at 16 times further away than with an M320.
Precision firepower at a greater distance means keeping US warfighters safer. Generally, the farther away soldiers are while addressing a threat, the safer they are.
Because it uses a rocket engine, Pike accelerates more slowly than bullets or an artillery shell. The rocket motor ignites several feet after launch. Reportedly, when the rocket kicks in, Pike is nearly smokeless, which helps to reduce the launch signature, keeps the location of warfighters concealed, and preserve an element of surprise too.
What’s next? Raytheon is further developing Pike so that it can be fired from small boats and ATVs, like a Polaris Defense RAZR. It will also be able to fire from small drones.
Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted" covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.