July 18, 2017:
Israeli and American firms have been developing “loitering munitions” since the 1990s. These began as small cruise missiles that could search an area for a target and if none were found self-destruct. The U.S. abandoned its effort (LAM) in 2010 but Israeli firms continued and several successful “loitering munitions” have been introduced since 2000. Some of these were battery powered mini-UAVs that went on one-way missions but a new Israeli model, SkyStriker, is also reusable. It weighs 35 kg (77 pounds) can carry a 10 kg (22 pound) or five kg warhead. Battery powered, SkyStriker is launched via catapult, has a top speed of 185 kilometers an hour and max endurance of two hours. The operator can guide it to a target and abort the attack in as little as two seconds before impact. If no target is found SkyStriker can return and land using a parachute and airbag.
Another Israeli firm has a number of similar UAVs but only one has a return and reuse capability. This Hero line of loitering munitions includes one using a gasoline engine; Hero 900. This one weighs 97 kg (213 pounds) carries a 20 kg (44 pound) warhead has a seven hour endurance and a max range (from the operator) of 250 kilometers. In 2015 the Hero 400 was introduced with four hour endurance, weight of 40 kg (88 pounds) with an 8 kg (18 pound) warhead. This UAV is battery powered and can operate up to 150 kilometers from the operator. In 2017 a new version, the Hero 400EC was released that had improved software and a return and land (using a parachute) capability. Hero UAV line comes in several other sizes, the smallest being the Hero 40, portable enough (weighing 3 kg/6.6 pounds) for the infantry to carry and use. The Hero 30 has 30 minutes endurance and has a small warhead that can use used to turn it into a weapon if the onboard vidcam indicates a target that has to be taken care of immediately.