One of the challenges of the 21st century battlefield is low signature targets that vanish after they appear. One of the ways to hit these targets is through the use of “loitering munitions” or weapons that are always hovering above a certain area and can track, detect, stream information back and ultimately hit the targets. Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) has an example of one such weapon
There comes a time when all the processes have been carried out, all the circuits closed, the red button pressed and the missile or bomb makes its way towards the target. But what do you do if upon glancing at the data screen and the sensors it appears that the missile or bomb is arriving at the designated target and the target is no longer there – or worse, it seems it is a different target from the one you intended to attack, maybe even one involving innocent people, in which avoiding hitting them becomes a top priority? The IAI thinks it has found the solution: The “Harop”
Searching for Targets
“We’re pioneers in the world”, says Boaz Levy, IAI Vice President and General Manager of Missile and Space Systems. “This is a unique concept, ‘outside the box’, an operational breakthrough in terms of thought”. The concept in question, represents by the “Harop”, is the realization of the concept of “loitering munitions”.”It is essentially a missile that knows how to schedule the moment it hits a target when the operator decides. After the launch, the ‘Harop’ knows to stay in the air for long periods of time, several hours at a time and to do so at different altitudes, up to 10,000 feet (approximately three kilometers). The ability to change altitudes opens up the possibility of synchronizing the time and direction to the target”.
“One of the prominent features of the ‘Harop’ is that you don’t have to define its mission. The day and night electro-optical payload, allows for immediate target selection above the area of action as a result of the image obtained”, explains Levy. “Whether the mission has been defined or not, the ‘Harop’ can be order to attack immediately, based on the picture it transmits back”.
As previously stated, the advantages of the ‘Harop’ primarily lay in what is called “A man in the loop” i.e. the operator, who determines the moves and actions of the Harop, based on information streamed back from its sensors. “The operator has the ability to carry out a wide variety of activities, such as intelligence gathering on the area of interest, checking targets at the moment of truth and attacking the selected target at any given moment”, illustrates Levy.
All targets, All The Time
When it launches, the ‘Harop’ emerges from a canister with the help of rocket boosters that give it the initial speed. After a number of seconds, the rocket disconnects and the engine operates the propeller on the ‘Harop’. Thereafter, the engine will operate throughout the long hours in which it will fly above the areas of interest until the moment when it hits its target.
“It’s important to understand that even after an order has been given to the ‘Harop’ to go into attack-mode, you can still stop the attack while it’s making its way to the target. The visual data continue to pass through the sensors and the camera even during the attack and if the operator notices anything that makes him want to cancel the attack, all he has to do is instruct the ‘Harop’ to return to its loitering state or to attack another target”, explains Levy.
The “Harop” can attack the target in two ways: an upper attack or a side attack. If it is a target that has a less protected upper part, it is likely that the operator will choose an upper attack and the other way around.
As states, the “Harop” can be launched against a wide variety of targets.
“The ‘Harop’ can work against a target of any quality imaginable: mobile or stationary, from missile launchers to command vehicles and mobile convoys to armored personnel carriers, tanks or ships, with all the possibilities at the operator’s fingertips”, concludes Levy.