They are a special breed of unmanned air systems (UAS) – they don’t carry a multi-sensor payload, and they are not equipped with weapon systems. Instead, they are actually flying warheads.
It may sound simple, but it is not. The development of these systems has been boosted, and they are going up the priority ladder of many advanced armies.
Such loitering systems are by nature “weapons of surprise” and kept for war, but from time to time some are cleared for the public eye.
UVision in Israel has recently partially revealed its family of expendable UAS.
The Blade Arrow is a precision attack system that can be launched from a canister or a rail launcher. The system is equipped with a FLIR/color CCD EO seeker.
The operator can search for, detect and attack a high-value target.
According to UVision CEO Yair Dubester, Blade Arrow has a maximum take-off weight of 45kg and an endurance of up to 7h. It carries an 8kg warhead and is powered by a fuel engine.
Israeli defence and aerospace industries have been developing loitering weapons systems for years, and such weapons are going to become more integrated into the arsenal of the Israeli defense forces.
The importance of these semi- or fully-autonomous systems is increasing all the time, and they are becoming more sophisticated and versatile.
Most of the systems developed in Israel are highly classified, but the trend is made clear by analysing the systems that have been exposed.
One relatively advanced loitering weapon system that was uncovered in recent years is the Harop – made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). This system was supplied to the German army. There may be more foreign clients, but they are unknown.
In the past – according to the foreign press – South Korea, China and India purchased an earlier version, the Harpy.
Harop is a long-endurance system which can be launched from a variety of platforms. It features tactical UAS capabilities – mainly a high performance FLIR/color CCD EO seeker with 360˚ hemispherical coverage.
It searches, detects, attacks and hits high-value re-locatable, time-critical, land- or sea-based moving targets with pinpoint accuracy at long ranges.
It can be assumed that the experience gathered by using Israeli loitering weapon systems domestically and overseas has helped in developing new generations.
Their capabilities will be classified for many years to come, but it can be assumed that these new versions are hunters that can wait for their prey for a very long time – and when spotted the end is very near.