'Skeet' antitank device takes aim at armor

One of the latest generation of relatively cheap and very ''smart'' submunitions being developed and tested in the United States is called Skeet. Built by the Avco Corporation, Skeet is designed to be used against tanks or any other enemy vehicle that emits engine heat.

In essence, Skeet is a cluster weapon weighing only 6 pounds that independently seeks out a ''hot'' target and fires a self-forging projectile at it. Skeet can be launched in one of two ways.

In one, a missile fired on a ballistic trajectory carries a dozen or more Skeet delivery vehicles to a point 10,000 feet above a tank column.

These rocket-shaped vehicles are released and fall to 700 feet where their descent is slowed by parachute. At 100 feet, the parachute is released, a small motor spins up the Skeet vehicle, and four submunitions are ejected. Each of these in turn has an infrared sensor that homes in on a tank's engine heat and fires a charge at it.

Aircraft instead of missiles could be used to deliver these airborne Skeet submunitions.

Skeet also could be dropped to the ground by aircraft along paths where enemy vehicles are expected to travel.

In this second launch mode, Skeet launch platforms parachute to earth, automatically extend acoustic sensors which detect vehicle noise, and rotate a small turret to aim two submunitions at different targets. Once launched by the platform, the Skeet submunitions operate the same as the airborne version.

In both versions, if the Skeet submunition falls to a certain altitude without detecting a hot spot it explodes anyway in a shotgun pattern.

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