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Wed, Nov 23, 2022

Elbit’s Lanius Drone and the Transformation of Warfare

Dawn of the Micro-Suicide Drone Swarm

Elbit Systems Ltd.—an Israel-based international defense electronics company with foci in aerospace, land and naval combat systems, command-control-communications-computers-intelligence-surveillance-and reconnaissance (C4ISR), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and advanced electro-optics—has developed a new drone dubbed Lanius which the company touts as a “highly maneuverable and versatile drone-based loitering munition designed for short-range operation in the urban environment.”

Lanius is capable of scouting and mapping buildings by flying quickly and precisely through small corridors and doorways, thereby assisting its users in detecting and identifying possible threats. The system can carry payloads—both lethal and nonlethal—conducive to the performance of a broad spectrum of missions for special forces, military, law enforcement, and Homeland Security (HLS).

Though small and unassuming, the Lanius quad-copter sports a disproportionately large, insect-like head replete with optic sensors by which it gets about missions as disparate as surreptitious surveillance and overt attack. Inexpensive, expendable assets of Lanius’s ilk have been effectively deployed to eliminate high-value targets such as radars, weapons installations, and enemy officers.

Unmanned Air Systems (UASs) of Lanius’s ilk provide soldiers enhanced awareness of enemy positions and the tactical advantages inherent covert, highly-mobile weapons systems. Combatants provisioned with Lanius are less likely to find themselves mired in urban firefights and similarly dire, potentially lethal encounters.

An Elbit Systems video introducing the Lanius drone depicts the system being used in an urban environment to aid soldiers bogged down in a firefight. The video shows a UAS mother ship dispatching multiple Lanius units which infiltrate the combat zone—buzzing about after the fashion of a swarm of bees—before identifying enemy targets and assisting the formerly outmatched soldiers in defeating an otherwise well defiladed foe.

Just as tanks and troop-carriers endeared themselves to soldiers in previous conflicts, drones have grown popular among contemporary warfighters insomuch as they facilitate successful field operations while sparing troops direct exposure to enemy fire or treachery. For example, the adeptness with which UASs detect Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and landmines has spared innumerable soldiers the perils inherent inadvertent encounters with such munitions. Expressed succinctly, people needn’t be placed in harm’s way if a drone can be dispatched to investigate a suspicious object or reconnoiter an unfamiliar environment.

Notwithstanding the utility and tactical advantages afforded combatants by modern drones, concerns exist about the ever-improving ability to engage adversaries remotely. Critics fear identifying targets from afar and neutralizing them with the push of a button will too much mitigate war’s horrors, thereby veiling murder in moral relativism and reducing the loss of human life to the inconsequentiality of avatars’ lives lost in a video game.

Philosophers and theologians worry physical and cognitive displacement from combat’s hideous realities and dire circumstances are apt to render military commanders less accountable for their actions, and combat troops pathologically  inured to killing.

What’s more, Russia’s and Iran’s kamikaze drone operations have been directed largely at civilian targets.

In 2021, a Turkish drone deployed against Libya allegedly mounted an uncommanded attack. Reports pertaining to the incident were vague, and failed to convincingly corroborate Turkish claims that the drone acted autonomously and executed an attack in the absence of commands from a human operator. Notwithstanding their apocryphal tenor, the reports engendered fears of renegade drones acting of their own accord.

FMI: www.elbitsystems.com

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