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Israel Aerospace Industries’ kamikaze UAV in the loop for India and Germany

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In principle, it is not a brand-new concept. But, one can say that Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Harop is somewhat blurring the distinction between unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and advanced missile systems. 

Israel – globally known as the origin of an extensive range of innovative solutions in the field of unmanned aviation –brought forward this peculiar and elaborate looking aerial vehicle almost a decade ago, thereby insinuating that this article is not breaking news. However, it is worth depicting this concept, which is generally called “advanced loitering munition” – a designation that does seem to do justice to this craft, which rather resembles a more sophisticated reconnaissance UAV.

Being a larger version of IAI’s Harpy, the Harop (or Harpy 2) has been developed to detect, identify and destroy high-value targets in conventional as well as asymmetric or low-intensity conflicts, especially for SEAD missions (suppression of enemy air defences). What actually blurs the above mentioned distinctions between a strike-capable UAV and a missile is it’s equipment, which gives it tactical UAV capabilities: being able to stay in the air for a period of about 6 hours and loiter over a potential target area for quite a while, it can provide vital reconnaissance information before it strikes a selected target and is destroyed.

More than just a flying warhead

As Itzhak Nissan, President and CEO of IAI said earlier this year: "Harop is an extremely impressive system and everyone at IAI is proud of this accomplishment. This is a state-of-the-art loitering munitions system which features accurate detection capabilities and minimizes collateral damage to the surrounding area."

The propeller-driven remote-controlled aircraft has a length of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in), a wingspan of 3 m (9 ft 10 in) and carries a 23 kg (51 lb) warhead next to an electro-optical/infra-red sensor suite. The long-endurance aircraft can be launched land- or sea-based from transportable containers and fly some 1,000 kilometres. Each Harop unit consists of the air vehicles, the transportable launchers, as well as a mission control shelter. The controller can observe the target area, select a suitable static or moving target and, thereby, minimise or even prevent collateral damage. The electro-optical sensor allows attacking a SEAD target whether it emits a radar signal or not.

Soon flying in India and Germany?

As an Indian Air Force official confirmed on Tuesday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will introduce the system into service by 2011 after having ordered eight to ten Harop systems for an estimated $100 million. This would make the Harop India’s first offensive unmanned aerial system and will complement its current fleet of tactical UAVs, which carry out surveillance and reconnaissance tasks with an important strike-capability.

Besides the export success with India, the system had been competing as “White Hawk” in the UK in 2005 and became a finalist in the race, however, was rejected when the Ministry of Defence decided to purchase a domestic competitor. A further chance to see the system in operation in a few years may be seen with the German Armed Forces. In fact, the German Ministry of Defence has already invested funds for the adaptation of Harop to its specific requirements, which has been carried out by a joint team of IAI and Rheinmetall Defence. Before, the German Armed Forces and the German MoD had separately approved an operational requirement utilizing IAI's Harop system. The project will be implemented in cooperation with Rheinmetall Defence as the prime contractor.

In statement earlier this year, IAI called this activity a reflection of the successful cooperation between IAI and Rheinmetall Defence, which has also included projects involving UAVs. According to press reports, the German Army ordered an undisclosed number of Harop systems in late September. On enquiry of, Rheinmetall Defence did not yet give a statement on this particular order, however, is expected to provide information in due course. So far, there also is no official information available on when and how many systems will be operated, nor for which range of tasks it will be used after the adaptations have been completed.

By Nicolas von Kospoth
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