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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

16 September 2015

DSEI - UVision's HERO family of loitering pinpoint munitions

Combining precision with an abort capability, loitering munitions have revolutionised the way indirect fire support is being handled today filling a capability gap by being able to strike fleeting targets. Able to stay in the air for a significant time and attack appropriate targets, loitering munitions have been pioneered by Israeli company Uvision for some years with the company now promoting its HERO family of smart loitering systems at DSEI. Speaking to MT prior to DSEI, Uvision's president and CEO Yair Dubester explained the rationale behind his company's decision to specialize in these systems: "we decided to focus on loitering munitions as the UAV market is getting saturated. At the same time UAVs are getting bigger, which is not our thing while the smaller ones are not really a business".

Uvision claims that its loitering munitions can "carry out pinpoint strikes in urban areas or remote locations with minimal collateral damage". Uvision also touts the "extreme maneuverability" inherent to the HERO systems which are integrated with advanced stabilized day/night cameras. Using an intuitive hand-held control unit, the smallest member of the HERO family is the HERO 30, formerly known as Wasp, which is optimized for operations at the tactical level. Launched from a canister which weighs 5 kg including the munition itself, it is deployable within minutes and has a low acoustic and thermal signature. Dubester said: "what was missing in Gaza (in the summer of 2014) was a HERO 30. In Gaza we experienced that the lifetime of a target has gotten very short". Uvision's president is convinced that when it comes to combating such fleeting targets, the man portable HERO 30 can complement traditional means of air support and ground based fire support as these do not have the same level of responsiveness as loitering systems while they provide a higher risk of hitting own troops.

Weighing 3 kg, the short range HERO 30 has been around for some time together with the larger 40 kg HERO 400, formerly known as Blade Arrow. They are now accompanied by the HERO 70 (7 kg) and the HERO 120 (12 kg), both short range systems. The new HERO 250 (25 kg) and the HERO 900 (97 kg) are extended range systems just like the HERO 400 which has a range of up to 150 km. Having an endurance of up to 7 hours, the HERO 900 is the largest of the six systems. Carrying a warhead of 20 kg, it is effective up to a range of 250 km. The low end HERO 30 carries a much smaller punch having a warhead of 0.5 kg while it has a maximum range of 40 km and an endurance of some 30 minutes.

UVision indicates that its HERO systems enable both "high-speed transit flight and low-speed loitering", and are capable of "handling moving targets, moving light-duty vehicles, tanks, and other strategic objectives". The systems allow targets to be "predetermined using GPS, or visually selected when the target presents itself" while HERO's advanced datalink "delivers up-to-the-minute situational awareness". If due to some reason the attack needs to be aborted, HERO systems can be recalled and another target selected, the company indicates.

When asked about how Uvision's loitering munitions compare to some of the competing systems that have been introduced in recent years, Dubester only addressed AeroVironment's solution: "Switchblade has a problem to attack vertically, with accuracy, having a fixed camera which is not stabilised, not capable of day and night operations". He went on to say that the HERO systems are "the most advanced loitering munitions that exist today". Capable of being ground, air or sea launched, the HERO systems are now also being looked at by Uvision for integration with unmanned ground vehicles and naval platforms. On display during the recent Paris air show was the so-called UGL-H30 UGV fitted with four HERO 30 systems with the ensemble still being in the concept phase according to Dubester. Meanwhile at DSEI, Uvision is showing its loitering systems for the first time on a naval platform launcher. Dubuster disclosed that Uvision had sold the HERO 30 to "several customers" with the HERO 400 having been purchased by "one customer". There have been no sales yet of the latest models. However, the Uvision president said that they have attracted "more attention than I thought"with announcements about orders likely to be made soon.
Pieter Bastiaans

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