The AGM-114 Hellfire Missile packs a hell of a punch. However, at over 1.5m long with a 9kg warhead, it's simply too big to fit on many UAVs, and it's too destructive for military's new targeted strike policy. So rather than let all those potential missile platforms go to waste, Raytheon just built a smaller bomb.
The Small Tactical Munition (STM) is a 6kg bomb designed specifically for use aboard the US military's existing fleet of small UAVs. At 22 inches long, the STM is the smallest air-launched munition Raytheon produces — so small, two can be packed into a single launch tube. So small that it can be carried by a 4m Shadow drone rather than only by the Predator 8m Predator. The STM utilises a dual-mode, semiactive laser seeker and GPS-inertial navigation system for guidance meaning that the munition's operator can either direct it to a specific location or laser-designated target — moving or still — before choosing to detonate it over the target, at the target, or five seconds from now with a fuse-delay timer.
The STM is barely a tenth of the weight of a Hellfire missile, so you're not going see any of these taking out a tank. No, these itty-bitty bombs are built for eliminating people — specific people. The 6kg warhead isn't going to stop much more than a light vehicle, but it packs enough punch to turn it into a smouldering pile without levelling the city block around it. "Current combat operations have highlighted the need for extremely small, precise weapons that are optimally designed for remotely piloted aircraft," said Bob Francois, Raytheon vice president of Advanced Missiles and Unmanned Systems. "STM is part of a portfolio of weapons that meets the warfighter's need in this area."
Raytheon began development of the STM back in 2009. After successful tests last September at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the STM is expected to enter active combat within the next few months. "We're just tweaking the software and running some environmental tests," a business manager for Raytheon's missile division told AIN Online.