The U.S. Marine Corps Rapid Capabilities Office (MCRCO) – a division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory – recently released a request for proposals for a theoretical weapons system called ‘Organic Precision Fire’ . They system needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles. This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer currently in use, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.
The system should be man-portable and able to launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube. Loitering munitions – often called suicide or kamikaze drones – are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, that are designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. This ability to “loiter” in the air for an extended period of time before striking, gives the targeter time to decide when and what to strike.
The Marines require the system to have the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should be able to fly for at least an hour and carry a sensor suite to perform local intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission, as well as allow for recognition and positive identification of targets, including personnel, vehicles and facilities.
In addition to providing organic surveillance and precision fire support capabilities, a small group of loitering munitions might be able to throw off enemy forces by attacking from multiple directions at once. This is not something that would necessarily be possible with a typical mortar or other indirect fire weapons, even when using precision guided ammunition.
At present, the service has no formal plans to purchase these weapons and says it is merely conducting “market research.”