Will the United States start using Israeli suicide drones?
It might, after Israeli defense company UVision teamed up with US defense giant Raytheon, to adapt the Israeli-designed Hero-30 remotely-operated loitering munition to US military requirements.
Now, both companies are jointly offering it to American infantry forces for use on future battlefields.
Yair Dubester, Director of UVision, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the Hero 30, if acquired by the US, would appear in potential future combat zones around the globe.
Unlike larger suicide drones, the Hero 30 is designed for individual soldier use. Each soldier can carry up to three.
The Hero 30 is the lightest member of its loitering munition family, and weighs just three kilograms. It carries a half kilogram warhead.
Launched from a canister using air pressure alone, it can fly on its electrical engine and wings for up to 30 minutes, before attacking a target like a missile.
During its launch, the munition does not leave behind a thermal or acoustic signature, Dubester said, adding that it sounds “like a champagne bottle being opened.”
The US realized the need for such weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq, Dubester said. “They concluded that without this, they don’t go to war,” he said.
Past products looked more like planes, and attacked at relatively shallow angles. They served American special forces.
Now, the US army is about to open a tender for Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems (LMAMS), Dubester said, as part of a plan to make such weapons, small, extremely accurate to avoid friendly fire, and accessible to all infantry soldiers.
“Through past sales, which I can’t detail, we recognized their awareness to these products. Raytheon then linked up with us,” Dubester said. The Hero 30 “take off like a missile and flies like a drone.
It can carry out day and night surveillance like a drone. When it finds a target, it can attack from above, or behind,” Dubester said. “The hard part was teaching a missile to fly like a plane,” he added, referring to the system’s wings, which enable it to loiter and search for targets.
Should the US buy the munition, it would represent the closing of a long circle, which began when the US purchased Israel Aerospace Industry’s Pioneer and Hunter drones in the 1980s and 1990s, before producing American-made platforms.
“The systems they use today still have Israeli DNA,” Dubester said, adding that IAI was linked to the development of the infamous predator drone.
In a statement released in recent days, Raytheon said that “the adapted system will meet the U.S. Army’s requirement for Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems.”