Israel Aerospace Industries arms NATO countries with loitering munition

 30. 03. 2024      category: Events
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In the last few years, armed conflicts have been increasingly influenced by the use of modern technologies and new means of conducting combat operations. One of the systems that are increasingly appearing on modern battlefields is the loitering munition. This offers operators a wide range of uses, from monitoring and tracking the enemy to attacking the enemy themselves. Israel Aerospace Industries is among the pioneers in this field. 

The importance of loitering munition in military conflicts has been growing steadily over the last few years. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020 was a breakthrough in the use of this type of weapon. Azerbaijan, in particular, has integrated loitering munition into its broader military strategy, using them effectively to eliminate the air defence systems of the enemy, thereby contributing to the acquisition of air superiority. Loitering munition also offered support to ground forces, making it easier for the Azerbaijani armed forces to conduct attacks on armoured formations or military infrastructure. The main advantage of loitering munition is the ability to find and attack enemy targets without operator intervention. However, the capabilities of this type of weapon are far more extensive. Loitering munition can be used as an early warning of hidden threats, as well as systems for target acquisition, surveillance and intelligence gathering. The relatively low acquisition cost of loitering munition is also an indisputable plus. 

Among the leading manufacturers and suppliers of loitering munition is Israel, and specifically Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which was the first in the world to develop and bring loitering munition to market. Its portfolio includes various types of staging munitions, such as the longer-range Harpy, Mini Harpy and Harop models, and the shorter-range Mini Harop and Rotem models. All of these models are among the world's top in the field of loitering munition and can successfully perform missions in a variety of conditions, both day and night. 

Picture:  Mini Harpy loitering munition missile | IAI
Picture: Mini Harpy loitering munition missile | IAI

The quality of IAI's loitering munition is evidenced by the contracts signed by the Israeli company last year. In May, Estonia ordered an unspecified number of loitering munition from IAI. This is one of the largest military purchases in Estonia's history, reportedly worth more than €100 million. IAI is expected to deliver the first pieces of loitering munition later this year.

Further commercial successes for IAI in the field of loitering munition came in June, when three contracts for the supply of Rotem systems were signed with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries. The value of the contracts with unspecified NATO member states is in the multi-million dollar range. Rotem loitering munition are designed primarily for operations in built-up areas due to their light weight and special design. It is equipped with advanced day and night optoelectronic sensors and is capable of operating for up to 9 hours in standby mode. The undeniable advantage of this system is its low purchase price and ease of operation, which requires only one operator. At the same time, if a target is not found or the mission is aborted, the operator can deactivate the Rotem system and guide it to a safe landing site.

IAI's expertise in the field of loitering munition is confirmed by its cooperation with the German MBDA. Last July, the two companies signed an agreement to cooperate in the preparation, production, marketing and execution of all necessary tasks related to the possible supply of unmanned munitions to the German army.

 Author: Otto Dóka

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