New ballistic, cruise and loitering missiles were shown by the Houthis in the recent military parade in Sanaa, Yemen. Among the new missiles were several types of precision-guided ballistic missiles, capable of attack at ranges from 300 to 1,400 km, carrying warheads weighing up to half a ton. All missiles are believed to be Iranian designed, they were likely delivered to Yemen as pre-assembled or knocked down kits.
New ballistic, cruise and loitering missiles were shown by the Houthis in the recent military parade in Sanaa, Yemen. Among the new missiles on display was the Quds-3 cruise missile, believed to be a new, longer-range variant of the Iranian Soumar cruise missile.
Quds 3 – a new cruise missile. Like its two predecessors (Quds 1 and 2), Quds-3 is powered by a small turbojet engine, yet it is larger and capable of flying over a longer range. Quds cruise missiles are programmed to fly at a low level and have demonstrated effective radar avoidance capability. They are designed to perform precision attacks on a pre-programmed location based on the target coordinates. The missile achieves an initial velocity using a solid propellant booster which is separated once the missile achieves its cruising velocity.
According to the Iranwatch.org missile report, Quds-1 has a range of 800 km. The second-generation Quds-2, which corresponds with the Iranian Soumar (also known as Hoveyzeh) missiles, has a range of 1,350 km. The range of Quds 3 was not mentioned by the Houthis but is believed to be longer than Quds 2, as the missile diameter is larger, thus capable of carrying a larger fuel tank and warhead. These missiles are based on an Iranian derived from Soviet-era air-launched Kh55 cruise missiles acquired from Ukraine in the late 1990s. The range of Quds-1 is assumed to be 700 km, with Quds-3 achieving three times that range.
Last week (21 September 2022), the Houthis of Yemen demonstrated an unprecedented military might in the largest military parade commemorating the 9th anniversary of their takeover of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. This parade culminates in a series of parades performed on a smaller scale in other cities, the most recently held on 1 September 2022 in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.
Over 10,000 troops took part in each of these parades; the parade in Sanaa was even bigger, with an estimated number of 15,000 troops, hundreds of military vehicles, and spoils of war from the recent battles with Saudi and UAE participating. The Iranian-backed Houthi regime used these parades to deliver a clear message to the region and the world – through the recent years of hostilities with the Saudi and UAE-led forces, they have mustered a significant offensive force, with tens of thousands of troops and powerful weapons that are dominating the region, on land and sea. Hostilities ceased on 2 April 2022 as an UN-brokered two-month ceasefire entered into effect. It was extended two times since, until 2 October 2022. The recent parades seem to be a statement towards the conclusion of negotiations on the further extension of this ceasefire and part of Iran’s power play in the region.
Naval capabilities were shown in the recent parades highlighting fast attack boats, electronic attack boats, sea mines, and remotely controlled ‘suicide boats’, carrying 150 – 500 kg of explosives to their targets. Most recently, anti-ship ballistic missiles were introduced, designed to hit ships at sea at ranges of 200 nm and beyond, with a warhead weighing 100 – 400 kg.
With these new weapons, Iranian-supported Houthis pose an exponentially growing threat to maritime traffic in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, far beyond the choke point of Bab-El Mandeb straits they already dominate. It seems they seek three classes of warheads – light (<100kg), Medium (>100 kg ), and Heavy (400-550 kg) required to defeat different classes of vessels. These warhead sizes were first employed with remotely controlled suicide boats and sea mines. The Iranians and Houthis have gradually extended the range of their weapons from tens to a few hundred nautical miles. Rather than employing these weapons on board ships to extend range, they can now reach beyond 200 nm, using the new ballistic anti-ship missiles, practically blocking the movements of naval vessels well beyond Yemen’s coastal waters.
Israel’s Air & Space Force (IAF) has recently reactivated the 144th squadron at Hatzor air force base, a new unit destined to operate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) under a new multi-domain force sharing IAF, ground, and intelligence forces assets. Although the squadron is located at an airbase, it will move with the ground and air-mobile forces and operate its Orbiter 4 drones from forward, unprepared locations, independently of airfields. Aeronautics’ Orbiter 4 STUAS is designated ‘Nitzoz’ – Spark in Hebrew. This aerial platform provides operators with unique operational flexibilities – the ability to deploy runway-independent UAS using rail launchers or Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL) deployment, with a minimal logistical footprint. Such drones enable full mission autonomy through 24-hour operation, using multiple payload carriage capabilities.
Nitzoz will provide the aerial layer of Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) ‘Storm Clouds’ program. This ambitious “system of systems” is part of the comprehensive automation of wide-area surveillance, target acquisition, and automated intelligence processing, empowering small forces.
Another new capability unveiled by Aeronautics at the Eurosatory 2022 exhibition is the Trojan Unmanned Hover Plane (UHP), a VTOL aerial system that bridges the gap between hovering, utilizing rotary wing and high-efficiency, high-speed flight, using fixed-wing aerodynamic design. With a wingspan of 4.2 m’, and a gross takeoff weight of 45 Kg, Trojan can carry multiple payloads of up to 12 kg. The UHP uses both, enabling this flying machine to introduce game-changing capabilities for battlespace dominance by providing Wide-Area-Persistent-Surveillance (WAPS) in versatile and dynamic environments.
Leveraging the ability to perform aerial missions with pinpoint accuracy at long ranges, Trojan enables new capabilities in aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, and target pursuit over wide areas and long ranges. With battery power sustaining 2.5 hours of flight time and 150 km. With a low acoustic signature, Trojan uses terrain following to penetrate deep into the enemy area covertly, day, or night, to autonomously land, perch, and stare over an area of interest. Using the built-in solar array embedded in the wing, it recharges its batteries in daylight. The platform uses several communications links, using encrypted datalinks over Line of Sight (LOS) using Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) or cellular (LTE) connectivity.
Designed with an open architecture, Trojan can accommodate multiple sensors similar in weight and size to those operated by Orbiter 4. Integral sensors and powerful image processing perform terrain following flight, AI-driven image analysis and targeting, hemispheric situational awareness (for self-defense while in perch position), 3D mapping to support autonomous landing, and automatic takeoff. The Trojan is controlled by a single operator from a remote base station that performs mission planning, monitoring, and payload control. The UHP can operate autonomously throughout the mission, and each unit can network with three additional platforms to operate as a swarm.
IAF 144th Squadron was established in 1972 as a fighter squadron flying the IAI Nesher fighter aircraft, a version of the Israeli-produced Dassault Mirage 5. The squadron participated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1977 the squadron received the first IAI Kfir fighter planes, and in 1981 moved to the new airbase in Ovda. The squadron later moved to Hatzor, where it operated the F-16s. In 2005 the squadron was deactivated and was reactivated on 1st August as the first Spark UAS squadron.
The MSPO 2022 defense expo in Kielce, Poland, provided a view into the significant modernization and transformation the Polish Army is going through. Positioned at the eastern edge of NATO, Poland, and the Baltic states could be facing the brunt of a Russian onslaught if hostilities would spill beyond Ukraine. That’s why the country is beefing up its military, modernizing its armed forces, and replenishing hardware handed over to Ukraine with new equipment.
As the venue to show the strength of Poland’s domestic military industries, MSPO highlighted drones, armored vehicles, artillery, air defense, robotics, loitering weapons, small arms, and ammunition. It also highlighted armies’ interest in modernizing current equipment and adapting to implement lessons learned from recent conflicts.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are high on the agenda of most armies, with armed drones brought to the center stage. Reflecting on some of the recent combat successes and failures, counter-UAS (both soft and hard kill) and loitering weapons were presented, offering alternatives and countermeasures against armed drones.
Air defenses for mobile forces are a capability gap identified in the recent hostilities in Ukraine and Caucasus. At MSPO, Poland has shown the Pilica, a very short-range air defense (VSHORAD) using a twin 23 mm automatic cannon and Grom or Pirun missiles mounted on a light truck. The locally developed Pirun was delivered to Ukraine and has proven effective in combat against helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, including UAVs. For wide-area air defense Poland will use the Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot (long/medium range/altitude) and MBDA CAMM as transportable, medium-short range air defense.
Artillery is also receiving its share of interest, primarily in securing the ammunition supply chain, range extension, and introduction of long-range effects using extended-range projectiles, rockets, missiles, and loitering weapons. The Polish military pursues such measures for current and future procurement programs replacing legacy Soviet-era artillery and multiple rocket artillery systems with South Korean K9 SPGs and HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. In recent years the K9 has become the most popular SPG in the west, serving Norway, Turkey, Estonia, and Poland. More prospects are promising – the first shipments of K9s have already been delivered to India; the system is currently being considered for replacing the SA-90 SPG in the British Army. In future versions of the K9, the South Korean manufacturer plans to introduce longer guns, up to 58 calibers.
The artillery is also transformed with the introduction of precision fire capability. At MSPO, several companies displayed guided projectiles, rockets, and missiles. Hanwa has displayed the CHUNMOO – a truck-mounted rocket launcher that carries twice the rocket load of the American HIMARS. CHUNMOO can launch 12x239mm GMLRS class rockets or deploy two ATACMS-class guided missiles, each with a diameter of 607mm, enabling the rocket artillery systems to launch tactical ballistic missiles, engaging targets at a long range with high precision. The Turkish Roketsan company has displayed guided rockets designed for 122, 230 mm rockets, and the Ukraine company Luch displayed the Vilkha, a modification of the R624M rocket equipped with pyrotechnic thrusters to compensate for the rocket trajectory and achieve higher precision fire with BM30 (Smerch) MRLs. This capability enables a single BM-30 to engage eight different targets in a single salvo.
A recent success of a Korean program in Poland was the selection of the K2 main battle tank to equip the Polish armored forces. Poland is rapidly replacing its T72s with advanced tanks. The Koreans responded quickly and committed to delivering 180 K2 tanks by 2024. Up to 1000 tanks are being procured. These include K2 tanks currently produced by Hyundai-Rotem for the Korean Army. Follow on orders of 820 improved versions (K2PL) tanks of this type will follow beginning in 2026 as the Polish industries ramp up production of this tank. Other tanks being procured by Poland include 146 Leopard 2, locally modernized to the 2PL standard by 2026, and 250 American Abrams M-1A1/A2-SEPV3 MBTs which will also be delivered by 2026. These tanks will be augmented by recovery tanks, bridge layers, and breaching vehicles. Mechanized infantry units will also receive a new armored vehicle – Borsuk, designed and built in Poland. Rosomak, the locally-built version of the Finnish AMV, is also accepting further modifications, including a 30mm turret and 120 mm mortar. The new Waran 4×4 vehicle was selected to be equipped as a tank destroyer using four British Brimstone missiles.
Rheinmetall and its partner UVision have won the first order from a major European NATO military force for HERO loitering munitions. The customer, a special forces unit, placed an initial order for Hero-30 combat and training munitions, simulator, training courses as well as integrated logistics equipment and support. This first order is worth a figure in the single-digit million-euro range with possible additional orders that might be expected. The exact number of munitions to be supplied is classified. The order was placed in July 2022, with delivery scheduled to take place by 2023. Hero 30 has been in service with the Israel Defense Forces, US Special Operations Command, and several international military forces. The weapon has recently been selected by the Marine Corps.
The order is particularly important for both Rheinmetall and UVision as it is the first delivery to a major European NATO force. This strengthens the joint presence of both partners in Europe. The contract was awarded under secrecy clauses which limit revealing its full details to the public. Before awarding the contract, the customer conducted a market survey indicating that the HERO family had already proven itself in service with other armed forces such as the United States Marine Corps. In addition, it was noted that due to the high operability of the HERO systems family, there is the possibility that the customer will also introduce the next-in-series HERO loitering munitions into its forces in the future.
Developed and produced by the Israeli company Uvision Air Ltd., the Hero series weapon systems are distributed in Europe as part of a cooperation between UVision Air Ltd. and Rheinmetall’s Italian subsidiary RWM Italia S.p.A. who will also manufacture the weapons for European customers. In October 2021, Rheinmetall and the Israeli company UVision entered a strategic partnership in the field of loitering munition. In this partnership, Rheinmetall and UVision jointly address the rapidly growing market for remote-controlled precision ammunition.
Hero 30 is a Man-Pack portable weapon deployed within minutes, the Hero-30 is powered by an electrical motor accelerating the drone to speeds of up to 100 knots. The weapon weighs 7.8 kg and carries a high explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 0.5 kg and is optimized for anti-personnel missions. The weapon’s range is 15 km with a loitering endurance of 30 minutes. Hero 30 is carried in a canister that serves as a launcher. Several such canisters can be mounted on a multi-canister launch rack to launch multiple weapons quickly.
While large caliber weapons such as the M142 HIMARS and its M31 GMLRS rockets are making the headlines in the Russian-Ukrainian War, smaller, more agile guided rockets have evolved, utilizing the laser-guided light rockets. Initially, these weapons utilized standard launchers, but recent developments from Thales, BAE Systems, and L3Harris have optimized the use of such weapons by helicopters, special operations forces, and unmanned vehicles.
Thales has shown the FZ606 at the Thai Defense & Security 2022 expo. This is the latest version of the rocket launcher optimized for laser-guided 2.75” rockets FZ275LGR. The new launcher stores six guided rockets in closed containers, protecting the rocket and its seeker from foreign objects (FOD), and the rocket flux generated by neighboring rockets launches. The launcher also provides two-way communications between each of the rockets and the control unit in the cockpit, enabling target verification, pre-launch programming of the fuse, setting the ignition sequence, and performing the necessary pre-launch tests.
The FZ275LGR from Thales (formerly FZ) is the latest version of the 70mm rocket, positioned as a competitor to the US-made BAE Systems’ APKWS II and Turkish CIRIT from Roketsan. This rocket ranges beyond 6,000 m’ with hit accuracy below 1m CEP. It uses a laser sensor mounted at the tip of the fuselage, providing a wider field of regard for the sensor. Alas, at this position, the sensor is also vulnerable to damage from foreign objects, environmental effects, and the heat and debris of launches of neighboring rockets. Hence, the advantage of the new launcher.
The Cirit from Roketsan is another 70 mm laser-guided rocket system designed for helicopters, vehicles, and drones. The rocket can use one of three types of warheads – a multipurpose (armor piercing, high explosive-incendiary), high explosive fragmentation (anti-personnel) incendiary, and enhanced blast (thermobaric). Roketsan has developed a new launcher pod housing four rockets attached to the platform as an all-up round. The same pod can be mounted on various unmanned boats and weapon systems. These rockets are currently used by the air forces of Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, and the Philippines.
Other launchers equipped with unguided rockets haven’t suffered these effects as the rockets they use are more robust and less sensitive to flash and FOD impact. With the new launcher, the 275LGR can lock on lased targets as soon as the launcher blind is opened, performing the ‘lock on before launch’ (LOBL) technique. Other guided rockets, such as the APKWS II, employ a matrix of four laser sensors mounted on the folding fins, thus keeping the sensor protected in the launcher until the rocket is launched. This method enables the rocket to acquire targets only after launch (LOAL), a shorter process prone to errors.
According to sources at Thales, the 275LRG uses improved propulsion providing a steady burn rate, resulting in stable trajectory and flight with higher accuracy. The weapon uses a high explosive fragmentation warhead with a high-performance armor-piercing warhead in development that will be able to penetrate frontal armor.
Lightweight rocket launchers for laser-guided weapons have evolved recently to provide agile and effective firepower for special operations forces and light manned and unmanned aircraft. Another launcher making its debut in the warzone in Ukraine was the Vampire – HarrisL3’s Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment (VAMPIRE). The modular system provides precision strike capability with ground-to-ground or ground-to-air laser-guided munitions. VAMPIRE can be mounted on commercial or tactical vehicles. Is designed to fit in any pickup or vehicle with a flat surface. It comes with a power supply that enables mounting on civilian vehicles using 12V electrical systems.
The launcher uses the Fletcher LGR4 quad launcher from Arnold Defense, loaded with four APKWS II laser-guided rockets. Such rockets can be used against ground targets, drones, and helicopters. This launcher can also fire unguided rockets using the ballistic fire control computer, but its main advantage is using laser-guided rockets, supported by a mast-mounted electro-optical payload system capable of designating targets within line of sight.
Today, Chinese aerospace company ALIT unveiled a new type of loitering weapon at the Thailand Defense and Security 2022 exhibition. The weapon designated FH901 was unveiled last year at the Zhuhai Airshow in China. The canister-launched version on show in Bangkok has a larger and heavier warhead. The ALIT display at D&S2022 outlines two versions of the weapon. The FH901 has a takeoff weight of 9 kg and carries a warhead of 3.5 kg.
FH901A is a lighter version of the same weapon that weighs only 3.5 kg of which only 0.5 kg is the warhead. The weapon is equipped with an EO/IR reconnaissance payload that acts as the targeting system. The weapon has a datalink operating over a line-of-sight distance of 15 km. Battery power is sufficient to sustain mission endurance for over 60 minutes, loitering at an altitude of 100 – 150 meters above ground at a cruising speed of 100 km/h. The weapon can accelerate and dash to its patrol area at up to 180 km/h after launch; when striking a target, the FH901 dives down, reaching a terminal velocity of 288 km/h. The weapon uses electro-optical guidance to score hits less than 2 meters (CEP).
The canister launched FH901/901A shown at D&S2022 addresses the needs of counterinsurgency and special operations. But China has other plans for this weapon, with large numbers of such weapons launched from ground or aerial platforms and used in swarm attacks. In 2020, CETIC released a video showing a pneumatic swarm launcher packing 48 drones and the Feihong 97 jet-powered stealth UAV. Overall, the elements of the Chinese swarm attack weapon systems are strikingly familiar – FH901 bears many similarities to the Aerovironment Switchblade 600, the Chinese Feihong 97 resembles the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie, and the swarm launcher looks like a sibling to Raytheon’s launcher designed and tested to deploy a swarm of dozens of Coyote drones.
Israel’s Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development (MAFAT – DDR&D) has tasked BIRD Aerosystems to demonstrate a prototype of an active defense system that will protect ground troops and high-value assets against airborne threats (including anti-tank guided missiles – ATGM). The system called ‘HybridEye’ was unveiled at the Eurosatory 2022 exhibition. Unlike existing vehicle perimeter cameras, HybridEye covers a full-hemispheric ‘bubble’ around the vehicle, detecting threats coming from all directions and elevations. The system provides hemispheric detection of threats and provides target data for passive or active countermeasures on board.
Recent conflicts underline the vulnerability of ground combat vehicles, troops, and facilities to low-flying aerial attacks by missiles, drones, and loitering weapons. Existing active defense systems, including air and active protection systems, were designed to engage fast aircraft or missiles and projectiles that use a direct attack. They lack the capability to deal with relatively slow, low-flying targets or those using lofted trajectories to attack their targets from above.
The HybridEye uses a fully digital, software-defined miniature phased array C-Band radar employing multi-beam technology to enable instantaneous early warning of multiple threats from long and very short range. This radar is designed to achieve the required angular resolution at close ranges, in both azimuth and elevation, as Active Protection Systems (APS) requires. The technology was derived from the confirmation and tracking radar sensor developed by BIRD’s for its operationally-proven SPREOS airborne directed infrared countermeasure system (DIRCM). The new radar will perform threat detection and verification and provide target acquisition and guidance data to guide countermeasures against the threats it detects. Each compact system and its electronics are integrated into a single lightweight Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) that eliminates the need for foresight, and enables a simple integration on different platforms, used for perimeter protection and APS.
The project is currently at an advanced stage of development and is expected to demonstrate a complete active defense capability this year.
Plasan is expanding its range of combat vehicles adding new platforms every year. This year at Eurosatory 2022 the company is introducing a new version of a light armored vehicles called Wilder. Representing a new automotive concept, Wilder represents a shift from the traditional armored vehicle design based on commercial chassis. The new vehicle is designed for special missions, providing excellent offroad mobility, good armor protection for the crew compartment and up to 800 kg of payloads. While the Wilder and AteMM were developed separately, the two platforms offer unique advantages when coupled together.
According to the vehicle designer Nir Kahn, Wilder was conceived as an ultralight armored vehicle moving four soldiers. Unlike the Stinger that was based on a modified hmmwv chassis, Wilder repreents a clean shheet design. “We are using 4×4 all-wheel drive, with a center, front, and rear differential locks, enabling excellent stability on the road, with extreme maneuverability off-road. To improve maneuverability in confined space, Wilder can be fitted with front and rear steering to perform in narrow urban terrain. As an off-road armor-protected vehicle Wilder demonstrates impressive performance in climbing a 400mm vertical step, 80% vertical slope, 54% side slope, 600mm trench crossing, and fording 600mm of water.
The vehicle has a structural integral ‘bolt-on’ protection capsule with advanced composite armor and large transparent plates meeting STANAG 4569 Level II. The armor is provided as a ‘kitted hull’ ensemble bolted onto the monocoque capsule, thus enabling field replacement, and upgrading of the protection system. The spacious cabin is configured with the driver seated in the center, having unobstructed forward and side views, with three troop seats on the side and center rear, enabling the three soldiers an adequate coverage of all angles with an overhead view provided by the instrumented sensors and RCWS. This configuration is also used in the new Scarabee from Arcuus, but Plasan’s Wilder provides it at less than half the weight of Scarabee.
The structure has sub front and rear frame systems, ensuring the vehicle stability and safety during four-wheel-drive driving at high speed on and off-road, in mud and snow. The vehicle uses the REGO REX independent suspension that provides extra ground clearance and a smoother ride on all types of terrain. The system is coupled with specialized axles and differential that doubles the wheel travel, allowing the vehicle’s high off-road performance. The Wilder uses a Cummins R2.8 Turbo Diesel with 161 HP output. With a curb weight of 3.7 tons and a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 4.5 tons, this engine delivers a power-to-weight ratio of 36 HP/Ton, an unprecedented ratio for armored vehicles. The vehicle can carry 800 kg of useful payload on the two subframes supporting a forward mount and 1.7 m2 flatbed at the rear. A roof-mounted rigid mount is designed to carry light weapon stations and optronic sensors. “Before Wilder, these specifications could be addressed by armored vehicles weighing seven tons,” Kahn added.
At Eurosatory, Wilder is shown with an autonomous UAV launch and retrieval system from Easy Aerial, operating the Wolverine and Xtender mini drones from Xtend.
Another optional addition is the AteMM electrically powered trailer. AteMM is not a conventional trailer. As an electrically powered wheeled system, it transforms the Wilder becomes a much more powerful 6×6 hybrid-electric platform, increasing the useful payload-carrying to two tons. Mounting weapon systems on the AteMM enables weapons systems integrators to offer numerous applications without any changes to the Wilder.
Since Plasan developed the two vehicles simultaneously, the Wilder and AteMM share some physical, automotive, and electronic commonalities enabling optimal operation of the two systems. They share the same height and suspension systems, and the AteMM controls are embedded in Wilder’s operating console allowing complete control of the AteMM without any preparations.
The Israel Ministry of Defense will begin testing a robotic unmanned vehicle (M-RCV Medium Robotic Combat Vehicle), developed by the Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), the Tank and APC Directorate, and the Israeli security industries.
The robotic combat vehicle will be unveiled today at Elbit Systems’ pavilion at the Eurosatory Defense and Security Exhibition. The vehicle includes a new robotic platform type BLR-2 made by BL, a 30 mm autonomous turret developed by the Tank and APC Directorate for the “Eitan” APC, Elbit’s “Iron Fist” Active Protection System, fire control and mission management systems, and robotic autonomous kit, in addition to situation awareness systems. The vehicle also features a capsuled drone for forward reconnaissance and advanced guard missions and a passive sensing kit developed by Elbit Systems and Foresight.
The technological demonstrator, led by the Ministry of Defense’s DDR&D and the Tank and APC Directorate, integrates a number of cutting-edge technologies including advanced maneuvering capabilities, the ability to carry heavy and varied mission loads, and a built-in system for transporting and receiving UAVs.
The vehicle will also incorporate sights, an IAI missile launcher, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ “Spike” missiles. The M-RCV’s capabilities include a highly autonomous solution for advanced guard and controlled lethality in all-terrain conditions. It is operational during the day and night in all-weather scenarios, while emphasizing operational effectiveness, simplicity, minimum operator intervention, and integration into heterogeneous unmanned arrays.
The system was developed as part of the autonomous battlefield concept led in the DDR&D in collaboration with the Tank and APC Directorate while implementing an open architecture for integrating future capabilities and integrating the robot alongside other tools and capabilities. The system is a joint product of many years of investment by the DDR&D and the Tank and APC Directorate and is expected to start field tests during 2023 in representative scenarios.
Agility, resilience, and self-sufficiency are basic for military forces operating in the field and engaged in warfighting far from their permanent bases. But operating in these conditions poses significant challenges with ever-growing energy consumption, increasing weight, and dependence on complex systems that require experienced operators and logistical tail for supply and support.
A new platform developed by Plasan may provide a solution for some of those needs. At Eurosatory 2022 Plasan showcases the All-Terrain Electric Mission Module (ATeMM), which provides an array of services to enhance the autonomy of tactical units, particularly in load carrying, electrical supply, and robotics operations. In fact, ATeMM is positioned to provide a mobility and autonomy ‘multitool’ that comes in handy in numerous use cases.
Although it looks like a trailer, ATeMM represents a new category in mobility – different from anything we are familiar with today. To understand its potential, let’s look inside. The system combines a load-carrying flatbed, an automotive system, and an electrical energy storage pack. The automotive system uses a single axle, two wheels with independent suspensions, brakes, a differential, and electro-hydraulic steering. The axle is coupled to a 190 HP electric motor/generator. The system can move the wheels or generate electricity in motion, to charge the battery that stores 35kWh of electrical energy. All systems are operated automatically and controlled through an operating system on board.
Unlike other trailers, when ATeMM is connected to a standard 2×4 or 4×4 vehicle, it turns that vehicle into a hybrid-electric 6×6. When two ATeMMs are coupled together, they turn that vehicle into an 8×8. Two, three, or four ATeMMs can also operate autonomously as Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV). This is only part of the versatility the ATeMM is capable of.
Power Max – Converting a 4×4 to 6×6
Users can select three operating modes. In the economy mode, ATeMM conserves energy through regenerative motion, with electricity generated and stored when the vehicle decelerates, as in other hybrid electric vehicles, when the driver press the accelerator pedal, ATeMM adds electrical power to support the vehicle. In charge mode, ATeMM is charged by the vehicle motion. While fuel consumption grows, the efficiency of generated electrical power is much higher than on-board generators.
The third Power Max mode delivers maximum power to boost the momentum of the host vehicle, as the trailer pushes the vehicle. This mode enables a standard 4×4 to achieve much improved offroad mobility and obstacle crossing. This capability also enables vehicles to achieve stealth by eliminating engine noise and maintaining a silent watch for many hours without draining the vehicle’s battery.
The patented twist-lock three-point fast connector system enables the trailer to become an integral part of the vehicle, allowing the driver full maneuverability in forward or reverse tight turns, and high-speed steering. The 1,950 mm wide trailer is air-transportable in helicopters and tactical transport aircraft, its height can be adjusted to adapt to different vehicles. Plasan also considers a smaller 1,650 mm wide version to match All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) that will be air-transportable in the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.
An abundance of Energy
The military needs large amounts of energy to sustain forces in the field. Communications, displays, computers, electro-optics, electronic warfare, missile launchers, drones, and other electronic devices require a constant flow of electricity in the form of fuel, generator sets, or batteries, to be pushed to deployed units. To keep their momentum, they need lots of energy in a form that is readily usable for battery charging or powering other systems.
ATeMM is equipped with multiple options to generate and provides electrical energy. When in motion, it regenerates up to 26 kW of electricity. ATeMM regenerates up to 60 percent of the energy consumed by the vehicle during traveling, energies that were mostly dissipated as heat and other forms of energy loses. When towed behind a host vehicle it generates 15 kW when braking and through coast regeneration). With this regenerative braking and coast regeneration, the ATeMM arrives at its destination fully charged, despite powering devices while in transport. It also has flexible output options supporting 24VDC, 110/220 AC, etc. To store the energy on board ATeMM uses lithium LiFePo T6 batteries offering standard efficiency at a high level of safety, for maximum storage capacity a new lithium-ion system is used, where each segment is immersed in liquid to prevent battery runoff in case of battery damage. Utilizing a smart energy management system managing the onboard battery bank, and regenerative energy produced when the vehicle is in motion, ATeMM provides the user with an efficient Off-Board power source. For example, this energy supply exceeds the needs of a forward command post that is often powered by tactical generator sets. To ensure continuity, two generators are constantly running, therefore doubling the fuel consumption. Using a single ATeMM, the vehicle engine can be used for backup power.
ATeMM-T – the Modular UGV
Another aspect of ATeMM versatility is coupling two units into unmanned vehicles (ATeMM-T). Unlike other UGVs that require charging, transportation, disembarking, and set up by robotics specialists, at the point of deployment, ATeMMs are simply towed by the vehicles and deployed by the troops to begin their mission. Up to four ATeMMs can be connected to form an 8×8 robot that can carry weapon stations, missile launchers, sensors on a telescopic mast, Counter-AUS systems, and more, with a fully electric drive providing power equivalent to 800 HP. When not used as a robotic platform each unit can be decoupled and serve as a power supply, delivering up to 100 kW/h to support other systems.
As a tandem, ATeMM-T can be detached from the host vehicle and operate via remote control, enabling unmanned travel with low signature (heat, noise). ATeMM-T can carry twice the payload of the ATeMM (2.3 tons), storing an increased energy reserve of up to 70 kWh. Another advantage of the system is its ability to deploy with its payload as an autonomous unit, thus avoiding complex and expensive modifications to the host vehicle.
ATeMM is as far from your grandfather’s trailer as a smartphone differs from the 1950s telephone. It provides many services for mobility, energy supply, or system integration on vehicles, but its most important contribution is adding flexibility, agility, and resilience to military forces in the field, where they can improvise and use it on their missions as a useful multitool.
The Israeli UAV maker Aeronautics is introducing its Orbiter 4 Small Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (STUAS) modified into a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) platform. The VTOL system comprises a kit that can be added to any Orbiter 4, enabling users to operate the drones without ground support (pneumatic launcher, parachute, and airbags). The VTOL kit includes four electrically driven rotors mounted on booms attached under the wings, which also have batteries to drive those rotors. The new attachment enables users to launch and retrieve the Orbiter 4 with a full payload from any flat surface. The kit can be used with any Orbiter 4, including operational aircraft that would need minor adjustments to the wing.
The VTOL kit offers users maximum flexibility for all-terrain mission operation, as it allows users to use the launcher and parachute + airbag to maximize mission endurance of +24 hours or opt to use the VTOL kit to deploy the drone from confined spaces, alas with a shorter mission endurance (over 10 hours).
“One of the most important needs in the modern battlefield is the ability to operate systems flexibly, depending on changing conditions,” says Matan Perry, Chief Marketing Officer and VP of Sales at Aeronautics. “In response to this need, we have developed the Orbiter 4 VTOL kit. Our goal was to keep the superior advantages of the Orbiter 4 as the most advanced UAS in its segment while adding extra flexibility and more autonomy to field personnel.”
Unlike the larger tactical UAS that depend on runways and a substantial logistical footprint, the Orbiter 4 STUAS is designed to deploy from forward, austere locations without using runways for takeoff and landing. These drones are designed to operate missions spanning day and night (24 hours), using multiple payloads that include electro-optical, radar, and electronic surveillance. Dominating the battlespace with UAS is part of the new ThunderStorm concept developed by RAFAEL and Aeronautics. Not much is publicly known about this pioneering concept.
According to RAFAEL, it comprises a network of aerial and ground-based system-of-systems with state-of-the-art Autonomous Mission Management capabilities that ensure battlefield superiority. According to some sources, new and advanced sensors providing persistent surveillance are central to the system. Rafael has recently demonstrated the MICROLITE, an electro-optical scanning payload optimized to fit the Orbiter 4 specifications.
The system provides persistent surveillance of a wide area, day and night, with high-resolution imagery and frequent revisiting, thus enabling effective coverage of large areas, detection, and tracking of multiple targets, including small objects. Recent conflicts have demonstrated the importance of the ability of armies to sustain operations of UAS over the battlespace, even without securing air superiority. Part of the solution is the ability to operate STUAS at low altitude, when those platforms can support advanced payloads that assume the missions of much larger, expensive, and scarce tactical and MALE UAS, operating at medium – to – high altitude.
Aeronautics’ VTOL developments haven’t stopped at the Orbiter. At Eurosatory 2022, the company plans to unveil the Trojan, an Unmanned Hovering Platform (UHP) that positions Aeronautics in a new category of fully electric drones that can take off, land and hover autonomously, at ranges up to 150 km. With this capability, Trojan can perch and stare at observation points, with motors shut down. These capabilities extend its mission endurance beyond the platform’s flight endurance. Trojan offers the same payload capacity as the Orbiter 4 but with unique hovering takeoff and landing capabilities that make it uniquely suitable for persistent surveillance. We shall cover this new platform in an upcoming review later this week.
The Directorate of Production and Procurement (DOPP) in the Israel Ministry of Defense will purchase hundreds of combat vehicles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the use of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Special Forces units.
The Z-MAG line of products was developed by the offroad vehicle designer and manufacturer Ido Cohen. In 2020 IAI’s Elta Systems acquired the manufacturing rights to further adapt the platform to military applications, fulfilling the ground forces’ operational needs for defense, assault, and intelligence gathering.
According to Avi Dadon, Deputy Director General and Head of the DOPP in the Ministry of Defense, “The commando combat vehicle project being launched today is the best possible reflection of the Ministry of Defense’s work. This agreement will enhance the export potential for these unique tools and technologies.”
IAI Elta will produce the vehicles at its new ground forces facility in Beer Sheba. This facility is currently under construction, at an investment of tens of millions of NIS in innovative technological and R&D infrastructure. ELTA Beer Sheba will perform the vehicle development and upgrade to provide an integrated, systemic response that includes mobility, defense, and assault for the forces in the field. The vehicles will be manufactured at the IAI’s Land Division production line in Beer Sheba, which, with the encouragement and the investment of tens of millions of NIS by the Ministry of Defense. The Armored Group (TAG), an international vehicle manufacturer based in the USA, is also part of the program, TAG, providing some of the components.
The new commando vehicles have exceptional all-terrain capabilities, such as carrying payloads of 1.5 – 2.5 tons (fully equipped soldiers and equipment, depending on the type of vehicle). The vehicles will be adapted to various missions, including carrying equipment, delivering supplies, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). The vehicle design is based on commercial components, ensuring the reliability and availability of spare parts at an affordable cost. The Z family includes the Zibar, Z-mag – a light version, an ultra-light platform designated ZD, and a heavier one offering armored off-road capabilities. The vehicles are designed for air mobility in helicopters and transport planes.