IDF Interested in Buying Suicide Drones, Israel Aerospace Industries Exec Says

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The Rotem model suicide drone.
The Rotem model suicide drone. Credit: Israel Aerospace Industries

The Israel Defense Forces is interested in purchasing suicide drones, an Israel Aerospace Industry executive has said.

The aircraft in question, developed by IAI, is a drone capable of carrying grenades or a camera that can be used by army units at the tactical level. The cost of the IAI product, which has been named Rotem, a Hebrew acronym for “attack and suicide drone,” can run tens of thousands of dollars. A military source has confirmed the IDF is interested in purchasing such aircraft but noted that no such acquisition is currently planned. 

The IAI executive said such drones have been sold to foreign armies but would not specify which.  

The aircraft itself can hover over a spot designated by soldiers on tablet computers and under their command attack a target with grenades. A soldier can carry up to two such drones on his back. 

The drone can also carry cameras which soldiers can use to designate an automatic flight path. The aircraft can then be returned by pressing a “back” button.

IAI presented several kamikaze aircraft to reporters during a tour on Sunday. Among the models presented were the Harpy and the Harop, both a cross between an aircraft and missile. “The aircraft sees its target, homes in on it and also destroys it,” the executive said. He refused to comment on recent reports that the Azeri army made use of the Harop to attack an Armenian convoy during fighting in the separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Harop is an unmanned kamikaze aircraft that various reports say is in use in India, Israel and Azerbaijan. It can carry 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosives and can hover in the air for up to seven hours. If the aircraft has not attacked a target, it can land on a net and be used in the future. Hundreds of Harop and older Harpy models have been sold around the world, the executive said. 

In other developments, IAI expressed criticism over the lack of a national multi-year space program, particularly as it relates to communications satellites. “There is a continuing crisis in the Israeli space industry,” IAI CEO Joseph Weiss said. Once the Amos 6 satellite, which is expected to go into space in July, is launched, there is no plan to develop additional communications satellites, he said. “The State of Israel isn’t looking at what is happening around it. It is investing small sums in space compared to what is happening around the world, and Israel is far from where it needs to be. We are marching in place,” he said.

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