At a recent weapons shoot-out held by Blackwater USA, the private armed security company recently in the news in Iraq, a new entry in ISR was unveiled: a grenade-launcher fired, parachute-deployed surveillance camera for use by troops in the field. Fired by the Milkor USA MLG-140 six-round rotating-barrel shotgun, the High-Altitude Unit Navigated Tactical Imaging Round (HUNTIR) from Martin Electronics (Perry, FL) floats down over the enemy as it feeds live images back to a computer monitor on the ground, giving aerial surveillance capability at the platoon level.
The HUNTIR Round is a fixed-type cartridge designed to be fired from the MLG-140 as well as from the M79 and M203 grenade launchers. The round consists of a cartridge case assembly, and a metal projectile body containing a first fire charge, a pyrotechnic delay column, an ejection charge, a CMOS Camera, and parachute assembly, according to Matt Eckel, Sr. Business Development Manager at Martin Electronics. Upon firing at approximately 262 feet per second, the projectile assembly is launched approximately 700 feet into the air. The first fire charge ignites the pyrotechnic delay element, which ignites another charge that ejects the CMOS Camera, which is attached to the parachute. The CMOS IR-capable camera provides up to five minutes of real-time streaming video to either a standard handheld monitor or to a dedicated receiver. The camera provides detailed video up to one mile. The HUNTIR camera is enclosed in an aluminum body, broadcasting in standard NTSC television format at 2400-2500MHz.
The MLG-140 40mm grenade launcher is designed to fire not only HUNTIR but also a new family of “hyper-lethal" munitions manufactured by Martin Electronics, in addition to all currently available NATO-spec rounds. The MLG-140 fires six rounds in three seconds at ranges up to 400 meters, effectively covering a minimum destruction area/zone of 20x60 meters. The primary specialized round for the MLG-140 is the MEI HELLHOUND (High Order Unbelievable Nasty Destructive Series) Round, or HELLHOUND 40mm Low Velocity Multi-Purpose Grenade. First the HUNTIR finds the enemy and then the HELLHOUND vaporizes him. True vertical integration.
Each HUNTIR round costs about $400, with the price per round dropping as order quantity increases, according to Eckel. First made available in July, 2005, HUNTIR is already being evaluated by US military units worldwide although the dollar value of current and future contracts remains proprietary. The current value to the US soldier in combat is clear.