Three major companies dominate Israel arms exports, but smaller defense firms like Steadicopter and UVision are finding niche capabilities to introduce to the Southeast Asia market.
For the first time, Steadicopter (Chalet N31) will be unveiling its improved Black Eagle 50 Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (RUAV) with new cellular SIGINT capabilities to collect and detect cellular identities and RF signals, as well as Wi-Fi payload for identifying, detecting, and intercepting Wi-Fi broadcasts.
Aiming to market the Black Eagle 50 to the Southeast Asia market, the RUAV on display at the Singapore Airshow is modified with anti-corrosion mechanisms and other more robust mechanical and electronics systems for maritime operations. Although there are no operational users in Asia, the firm has partnered with Apollo Micro Systems to target the Indian market and is now looking for other strategic collaborations to get a foot in the Asia-Pacific region.
Compared with one of the most successful RUAV competitors, the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter that has a maximum takeoff weight of about 200 kg and endurance of around six hours, the Black Eagle 50 has a mtow of 35kg giving operational time of four hours.
“We target a different concept. We designed a small tactical RUAV and our operational concept is to make it with a minimal logistic footprint,” said Steadicopter sales and marketing director Noam Lidor. “One can operate the Black Eagle 50 with only 2 crew members. It's more suitable for small units, small Offshore Patrol Vessels or tactical units with a minimal logistic footprint.
“The logistic footprint is not only the capability to take off and land without any assisting equipment but very much also the small size of the UAV when stored, allowing it operate from extremely small vessels, giving any vessel or unit commander his own small ISR asset,” Lidor added.
More Capabilities for Hero
Meanwhile, Israeli loitering munition manufacturer UVision is looking to introduce more capabilities and features into its Hero series munitions as it expands its target market across the globe. Speaking to AIN at its facility in Zur Igal, near Tel Aviv, Israel, v-p of marketing Shane Cohen said the company is studying ways to deploy the munitions from the air, such as the Hero 120 from helicopters and the Hero 400 from fixed-wing aircraft.
He said that helicopters are increasingly becoming more vulnerable with just conventional guided munitions especially those that need to have "eyes on target," and loitering munitions will increase the survivability of the platform from ground-based targets. UVision is also working with a "South American customer" to air-launch the Hero 400 from a fixed-wing aircraft. A video animation from the company shows the munition being deployed from a canister mounted on an Embraer Super Tucano turboprop aircraft; narrowing the possible client to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and other two smaller Latin American states.
Hero 400 has a range of 150km, four hours endurance and has a warhead of 8kg.
Also in the works is an anti-radiation seeker allowing the Hero to conduct Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) missions against radar emitting platforms.
Cohen said that UVision has noticed an increase in tenders and requirements for loitering munitions and that many armed forces have overcome the conservative concept of how a target is being engaged in the battlefield. He said the Hero has changed how anti-tank missile procurement has evolved, being used as a recoverable surveillance platform and a munition against both personnel and armored units.
Currently, Israel and the U.S. Army are users of the man-portable Hero munitions, along with a ‘handful other operators’ including Asian customers. As it requires an Israeli ministry of defense export license, approved countries in Asia are limited to Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. He said that it has embarked on a joint venture with an Indian company, part of an effort to penetrate and secure the Indian market. It has a similar partnership with Firstec to market the Hero to South Korea.