One of the more unusual debutants at this year’s airshow is Israel Aerospace Industries’ HAROP loitering munition. A cross between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a bomb, HAROP is an expendable air vehicle that is launched from the box in which it is transported. The weapon can loiter over the battlefield for up to six hours, using its nose-mounted EO/IR sensor turret to spot targets or relay video imagery back to the control station.
Once a target has been designated, the HAROP can attack it in several profiles. A near-vertical dive attack is an option, especially useful for pinpoint attacks in urban areas. The dive attack also makes it difficult to intercept in the terminal phase. The vehicle carries a small warhead, sufficient to knock out most targets but containing damage to a small area.
The mission control station gives HAROP a man-in-the-loop capability throughout its mission, allowing attacks to be aborted if required. In these cases the vehicle can return to its loitering mode. HAROPs can be used in combined operations, with one vehicle providing battle damage assessment for other HAROP attacks.
IAI has signed a contract worth more than $100 million with an international customer, widely believed to be Turkey. Germany is also interested in the design, and IAI is working with prime contractor Rheinmetall–with German defense ministry funding–to adapt HAROP to Germany’s operational requirement.