Since 2016, the use of improvised munitions delivered by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated by non-state actors – and even some governments – has increased dramatically. The article, which draws largely on three ARES reports as well as ARES’ proprietary Conflict Materiel (CONMAT) Database, outlines some of the key milestones in the development and employment of these munitions, and specifically assesses some of the designs used in recent years.
Even after just a few short years, the operational employment of these munitions has clearly demonstrated how commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and hobbyist-grade UAVs can provide a modest precision strike capability to belligerents when combined with a basic weapons production capability. Since the submission of the article, several further developments have also been tracked by ARES, including new munition designs, the previously-unseen adaptation of particular hand grenades and 30 mm cannon projectiles, and the use of disposable shoulder-fired rocket launchers and recoilless weapons mounted to small UAVs.
Special thanks to Larry Friese and Federico Garcia.
Remember, all arms and munitions are dangerous. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, and all munitions as if they are live, until you have personally confirmed otherwise. If you do not have specialist knowledge, never assume that arms or munitions are safe to handle until they have been inspected by a subject matter specialist. You should not approach, handle, move, operate, or modify arms and munitions unless explicitly trained to do so. If you encounter any unexploded ordnance (UXO) or explosive remnants of war (ERW), always remember the ‘ARMS’ acronym:
AVOID the area
RECORD all relevant information
MARK the area from a safe distance to warn others
SEEK assistance from the relevant authorities