Rivals unveil concepts for loitering munition demo

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Variants of IAI’s Harpy and EMIT’s Sparrow to contest British Army requirement

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is developing a new variant of its Harpy anti-radiation unmanned air vehicle to meet a British Army requirement for a loitering munition concept demonstration (LMCD). A similar new- generation design based on EMIT’s Sparrow air vehicle is also being offered by Israel’s Rafael Armament Development Authority for the tender, which was released last July and will close this month.

Promoted by MBDA as the White Hawk, the proposed Harpy variant is believed to have a new airframe with a reduced-sweep delta wing, and to employ an electro-optical sensor in place of the current vehicle’s passive radar seeker. Also supported by Cranfield University, Insys and Qinetiq, the vehicle has a cylindrical fuselage extending aft of the wing, rather than forward from the centre of the leading edge, as with the Harpy. Images displayed at last week’s DSEi exhibition in London also show a bulbous forward fuselage, suggesting a forward-facing sensor and potentially an enlarged high-explosive warhead.

The configuration retains the Harpy’s four pop-out airbrakes which are employed to put the weapon into a terminal dive, although the new variant will be able to retract these and escape the stall after starting its terminal manoeuvre. “Prototype munitions are available, making this a mature solution which will allow the Ministry of Defence to conduct its evaluation with proven and representative hardware,” says MBDA.

Rafael’s Blade derivative of the Sparrow UAV retains most of the existing airframe, with minor modifications made to allow carriage of a high-explosive warhead. EMIT and Rafael are part of an Ultra Electronics-led team that also includes BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Stasys, Praxis and Raytheon.

Thales UK and Rheinmetall are offering a Tactical Advanced Reconnaissance Strike System derivative of the German company’s Taifun anti-armour UAV for the LMCD. Development work started last year, with the vehicle intended to carry high-explosive and electromagnetic pulse warheads.

The MoD plans to downselect for the project late this year, and to place a contract for a 24-month demonstration phase in early 2006. The selected weapon should be canister-stored and launched on demand, with control to alternate between fully autonomous and remotely-operated flight phases via a datalink.

PETER LA FRANCHI/LONDON