COLOGNE, Germany — Hungary is maintaining its appetite for Rheinmetall products with an order for Hero loitering munitions that the German company markets in Europe in conjunction with Israeli firm UVision.

The order for the munitions — drones with warheads, essentially — lies in the “low three-digit, million-euro range,” Rheinmetall said, without elaborating. Deliveries are to begin in 2024 and end in 2025.

Colloquially called kamikaze drones or suicide drones, the weapon type has seen a rapid rise in demand in recent years. They have become fixtures in footage seeping out from combat in Ukraine, with grainy films on social media showing explosive-laden quadcopter drones approaching armored vehicles from above, their video feeds suddenly ending in static noise following a presumed detonation.

More sophisticated versions, like the UVision-designed Hero series, look more like missiles with wings. They have enough range and endurance to hit targets up to 200 kilometers away, circling over the area first to analyze the battlefield. According to a Rheinmetall, the weapons “help to select high-value targets as well as suitable timing, direction and angle of attack before carrying out a high-precision strike.”

Rheinmetall showed off the Hero drones at last year’s Eurosatory defense expo in Paris, marketing them as optional companions for the company’s ground combat vehicles.

Oliver Hoffman, who leads public relations for Rheinmetall, declined to identify the Hero variant on order, citing contractual obligations.

The company has bet big on Hungary, building a production site there for its Lynx infantry fighting vehicle after Budapest took a chance on the novel vehicle in 2020. The government ordered more than 200 Lynx vehicles in a deal worth €2 billion (U.S. $2.2 billion).

Rheinmetall said at the beginning of 2023 that low-rate initial production had begun for the vehicles at the Zalaegerszeg site in western Hungary close to the Austrian border. The company was to reach a full-rate production level this summer.

The company is also building an ammunition production facility for the Hungarian government after winning a contract in December 2022. South African subsidiary Rheinmetall Denel Munition will supply the requisite plant technology, the company announced in January.

Hungary is a NATO member, a frequently mentioned fact in Rheinmetall’s announcements about business dealings in the country. Its European Union membership is more problematic, as the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán tussles with Brussels over everything from rule-of-law compliance to EU unity in the face of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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