Loitering Munitions (LM) evolved in Israel in the mid-1970s, based on operational lessons during the Yom Kippur War, where Israel failed to achieve sufficient air superiority over enemy air defences. In the years that followed the 1973 war, the Israeli defence establishment encouraged industry research and development in unmanned and autonomous capabilities for the Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD/DEAD), measures that paved the way for manned aircraft to strike those Surface-to-Air missile (SAM) sites. The Harpy ‘suicide drone’ conceived in the mid-1980s was one of these solutions developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Missile Division. Harpy comprised of swarms of autonomous aerial platforms equipped with a radar-seeker and warhead. It could loiter for hours at high altitude inside a SAM-Defended Area and once threat radar became active, it rapidly engaged that radar, steeply diving to hit the radar with devastating effect.
Evolving through decades of operational service, the Harpy was recently modernised in two aspects: A-new anti-radiation (AR) seeker offering improved target location, identification and classification and extended frequency coverage, particularly in the lower frequency bands, utilising a modern and versatile platform the system now offers longer loitering of up to nine hours. Its unique autonomous capabilities and ground based operability turn Harpy into a disruptive capability against land-based adversary Anti-Access/Access Denial assets. To excel as a multi-mission combat system, IAI evolved its autonomous LM to be remotely operated, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance missions with the ability to attack targets immediately as they are detected. For such missions, ‘Man in The Loop’ control was first introduced with the Harop – a loitering platform with maritime capabilities powerful enough to carry a sophisticated multi-sensor EO payload, large warhead, data link and enough fuel for a 9-hour mission. Sharing a common platform with Harpy NG, Harop delivers imagery intelligence in real-time over a two-way data link.
Once a target is detected by the operator, from distances hundreds of kilometres away, Harop is commanded to attack, it dives in on the designated target and activates its large warhead. The approach azimuth, as well as the dive angle is selectable by the operator, to suit various operational scenarios. In Defexpo 2020, IAI displayed its LM family with its newest member, Mini Harpy, a newly-developed loitering munition, based on unique IAI development and technology. The Mini Harpy combines the capabilities of the company’s two flagship loitering missiles, the Harop and the Harpy, offering detection of broadcast radiation with electro optical capabilities.
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