A drone cure for Russia’s artillery-killing ‘Penicillin’

A drone cure for Russia’s artillery-killing ‘Penicillin’

Military drones possess evolved mightily from your cameras hung upon model airplanes that were introduced in the early 1980s. They are now used for battlefield cleverness, reconnaissance, and monitoring (ISR), early caution, troop support including search and rescue, and attacking foe assets.

Since the Russian invasion associated with Ukraine grinds on, drones could quickly be deployed another use. A new era of drone-based acoustic sensors may provide an important response to what appears to be a significant update in Russia’s passive sensor system to get locating Ukrainian artillery far from the immediate battlefield and thus hard to destroy.

Called “Penicillin, ” the new Russian system combines traditional acoustic sensors, thermal imaging and seismic detectors. It replaces an old passive sensor system ( AZK-7M/1B33M ), of which the Ukrainians possess a derivative (RAZK).  

Ruskies sources claim Penicillin is having a devastating effect simply by letting Russian forces accurately target Ukrainian long-range artillery from great distances. Ukraine’s artillery, say the particular Russians, is being steadily eroded while its airpower is being diminished. This is backed up by Ukraine’s continued requests to the West for more long-range artillery.

In the meantime, The ussr seems capable of safeguarding its own artillery definately not the front line. Atmosphere defenses coupled with jamming and electronic warfare capabilities are poised against the US-supplied counter-battery radars that are used to locate plus target Russian artillery.  

A US anti-battery radar system. Image: Lockheed Martin

Just this week, Russian federation said it had destroyed two US counter-battery radars – one a tactical system and the other a longer-range system. Counter-battery radars can easily be detected when they are usually turned on; passive techniques cannot be easily located, nor can they end up being jammed.

Such as the Russians, the US and its particular allies and buddies have passive traditional sensors – those are not new. These were first proposed before World War We, and the first patent on a system had been filed by German Army Captain Leo Lowenstein in 1913. They were used throughout both world wars and in Sarajevo, Iraq and elsewhere before Ukraine.

Traditional acoustic systems are not precise at long ranges. The British-developed HALO (Hostile Artillery Locating) system includes a claimed accuracy associated with only 50 to 100 meters under ideal conditions, which means that hitting an foe artillery piece far is a matter associated with some luck.  

Sound waves, especially in reduced frequency, can be devilishly difficult to locate. Ground, climate and climate conditions often need to be scored and ancillary detectors brought in, especially when the attempt is to locate long-range radar.

Even then, accuracy is elusive. Where multiple guns are firing in close proximity, it is even harder to sort out artillery locations.

Drones with acoustic sensors might be the solution to Penicillin with its passive sensors plus large ground footprint. The drone system would identify the location of the enemy artillery.   It would not really deal with the Penicillin system.

It might be far cheaper compared to very costly Penicillin or maybe the costly counter-battery radars used to detect the place of incoming artillery firing.   A small drone costs about US$25, 000 in order to $50, 000 (not counting the detectors, which would perhaps cost $5, 000 to $10, 000 including communications interfaces).

Furthermore, the loss of a drone is not a major problem whereas the loss of the multimillion-dollar counter-battery adnger zone or a Penicillin  system has far more effect. Moreover, the chance associated with hitting the target is better with the drone.

Basic safety Dynamics , a little American company in Arizona, has miniaturized acoustic sensors to the level where the sensors and electronics can be incorporated into a soldier’s headgear.   At that size, they could fit into drones.

The Safety Dynamics sensor program, known as SENTRI, has not yet been examined on drones, but there is no technical barrier to doing so. It is often tested by the US Army on moving vehicles and achieved almost perfect precision.  

Certainly, SENTRI performed better than other systems tested by Army on shifting vehicles.    

How the proliferation of sensors, built-in via the  internet of battlefield things (IoBT), can transform warfare. Image: Army Mad Scientist Lab

SENTRI needs to be tried out upon drones to confirm it can work. The company thinks that it can easily be tweaked for artillery recognition, but testing is needed to confirm it will maintain accuracy on a moving drone platform.

A drone furnished with a system such as SENTRI could relay information, or it could really attack identified goals if the drone came equipped with rockets like the Turkish Roketsan MAM-L smart tiny munition or weaponry including the US Hellfire or the Israeli Surge missiles.

A good acoustic sensor drone could also be paired along with day and night cameras, meaning its capabilities might be combined with visual plus flash detection.

Unlike ground-based systems such as counter-battery radars or passive systems such as HALO plus Penicillin, a drone-based solution that can also operate autonomously with a passive array of detectors could prove a game title changer in the battle in Ukraine. Better than Penicillin.

Follow Stephen Bryen on Twitter on @stevebryen