By this point in the second decade of the 21st Century, unmanned aerial vehicles armed with precision weapons are not strange or unusual. Indeed, they have so profoundly impacted the popular psyche as to have had pop songs written about them. However, these systems generally make a distinction between the aerial vehicle and the ordnance itself (e.g., an MQ-9 Reaper and its AGM-114 Hellfire missile payload). Then, what is unusual is a weapon which combines these two systems into one, a device that is both UAV and missile, both bomb and surveillance drone. Israeli news outlet iHLS reports on a device that is exactly that: The UVision Hero-400EC, a loitering reconnaissance drone that can fly directly into an enemy position to deliver a 10 kilogram explosive warhead.
The Hero-400EC is not the first so-called “loitering munition”, nor the first to have been released by UVision. In 2013, the company announced its Hero-400 drone, which carries an 8kg warhead and possesses a 4 hour loiter time. The larger, more capable Hero-400EC joins other stablemates in the UVision lineup as well, ranging from the 6lb Hero-30 to the 200lb+ Hero-900.
The future of infantry combat is one that will necessarily require harnessing innovative and out of the box ideas to add not only capability to the infantry directly, but responsiveness to their support assets. The idea of a kamikaze-style UAV that provides reconnaissance and then destroys itself by colliding with the target directly may seem a bit silly, but if it is deployable in a way that is less expensive and/or more responsive than current missile-laden UAVs and manned aircraft, it could find a niche as a precision alternative to more organic infantry support weapons like mortars or Javelin missiles.
The key selling point of a system like this appears to be the ability to perform reconnaissance on targets organically with the ordnance, all the way to delivery – and, perhaps more importantly, to recall the ordnance and cancel the attack at any point before detonation. Versus a conventional bomb or missile attack, this system would potentially provide more surety of positive target identification, and a lower rate of blue-on-blue or blue-on-green incidents.
Thanks to Kevin for the tip!