Three Israeli companies are highlighting here an emerging trend of loitering systems utilizing autonomous and remotely controlled systems for battlefield reconnaissance and selective attack. Such systems are offering unique and essential capabilities, enabling military forces to confront illusive targets encountered in the modern, hybrid war on terror. Unlike conventional systems, loitering systems maintain the ‘man-in-the-loop’ throughout their missions, thus enabling the system’s operator to abort the attack and continue the surveillance mission even in the last second before impact, if conditions in proximity to the target are determined to be risky or endangering to innocent bystanders.
The HAROP, developed by IAI, is the most mature loitering weapon system of this class, with hundreds of systems sold to customers in several countries. A HAROP system comprises about a dozen ‘loitering weapons,’ launched from a truck-transportable ‘hive’ of launcher-canisters. Powered by an internal combustion engine sustaining the vehicle for six hours, HAROP is equipped with an electro-optical payload used for ISR, Target Acquisition, navigation and terminal guidance.
IAI recently completed a series of flight demonstrations of its enhanced HAROP Loitering Munitions in Israel for a foreign customer. In these tests HAROP demonstrated enhanced performance associated with flight altitude, observation and loitering, with the weapon remaining in the air for several hours before being assigned a target for final engagement. In the terminal phase HAROP demonstrated successful flight maneuvering, diving down to the target with maximum precision. The terminal phase can be performed from any direction and at any angle of attack, from flat to vertical.
Aeronautics is unveiling a smaller type of loitering weapon – the Orbiter 1K. Based on the Orbiter 2 airframe, the new vehicle is designed as an expendable drone carrying a warhead weighing 2.2 kg and a lightweight EO payload. Launched from a catapult the Orbiter 1K can loiter for 2-3 hours, carrying a multi-sensor camera with day and night channels. Depending on mission requirements, the Orbiter can fly an autonomous course, following predefined waypoints, or fly directly to a target area designated by coordinates, where it can scan the area for potential targets.
Uvision is an Israeli company that has dedicated its entire portfolio to loitering systems. The company is unveiling its new HERO portfolio at the Paris Air Show, including loitering systems ranging from 3 kg. to 90 kg., carrying warheads weighing from 0.5 to 20 kg., and designed to seek targets at ranges from five to 250 km. All systems are equipped with multi-sensor EO payloads designed for day and night operation, flight controls, avionics and datalinks maintaining ‘man-in-the-loop’ through the entire mission. Three members of the family are designed for man-portable short-range missions, offering different combinations of warheads and endurance. Three larger models are designed for long-range missions, and are deployed from different types of platforms.