JERUSALEM — UVision, a maker of loitering munitions, is seeking to expand its business in the U.S. with the launch of UVision USA, a fully owned subsidiary of UVision Air in Israel.
The company has developed a family of lethal loitering munitions, including the Hero-30, the man-packable, canister-launched system. U.S.-based Raytheon signed an agreement in 2016 to work on the Hero-30.
These munition types will be part of the future battlespace because they offer a lightweight precision-strike munition alongside the ability to reduce collateral damage, as there is a man in the loop at all times, according to UVision USA CEO Jim Truxel.
Israel has been a pioneer in these kinds of munitions, often called “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones, including Elbit Systems’ SkyStriker, IAI’s Harop and Harpy, and Aeronautics’ Orbiter 1K. These tend to consist of a UAV with a warhead so that the system can behave like a drone but strike a target like a cruise missile. The Hero family has warheads ranging from 0.5 kilograms to 30 kilograms (1.1 pounds to 66 pounds).
Militaries see applications for these weapons against air defense radar and other UAVs. The U.S. military has been looking at loitering munitions for more than a decade, but has struggled to integrate them. It fielded a munition called Switchblade in Afghanistan and Syria, and a munition called Coyote in 2018. Its ally the U.K. has explored using a loitering weapon called Fire Shadow.
UVision says its family of munitions brings flexible features to the battlefield. With a cruciform wing design, it has an abort capability that Truxel says can be activated up to the last seconds of impact.
“It’s designed to take that G-force when you do an abort, so it can maneuver quickly and go back to the loiter, and that’s unique.” Truxel said.
The UAV can be deployed by air, land or canister. It has real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and the smaller versions provide infantry or special forces with a way to launch the munition and fly it up to 30 kilometers, while seeing through a camera on the drone.
“The nature of the battlespace is ever-changing, and the next battle may not be in an open area, or non-open area, with the need to strike different angles in different close confinements, so I see these types of munitions being widespread,” Truxel said.
With the U.S. Defense Department focusing on technologies for the future battlefield, Truxel is hopeful. The new U.S.-based company will “greatly increase our ability to interact with partners and customers to meet the developing needs, and then long term we will eventually establish engineering, field service, simulation and manufacturing with U.S. employees, so it’s not just strategic, it’s also looking to support and getting closer to our customers,” he said.
Truxel added that UVision is actively involved in American programs that are evaluating these munitions, but would not go into detail.
Seth Frantzman has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010 as a researcher, analyst and correspondent for different publications. In recent years he has focused on the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.