LONDON — Israeli defense companies made drone technology with a vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability a focus at this year’s DSEI defense conference in London, unveiling two new systems with customers already secured.
This past year, the tube-launched Hero series of loitering munitions produced by German company Rheinmetall and its Israeli-based partner Uvision have seen great success in Europe, with sales announced to Italy and Hungary.
But this deployment method involves a logistical challenge for operators.
“The challenge of tube-launched loitering munitions in urban warfare environments is that you typically need a certain amount of open space in front of you and a clear path with no personnel in between,” Alon Tamir, senior business development and marketing manager at Israel Aerospace Industries told Defense News last week at DSEI. “It makes where you can launch more complex.”
To solve this issue and provide customers with greater flexibility for launch sites, IAI developed the Rotem Alpha loitering munition, capable of hovering, taking off and landing vertically. Unveiled at DSEI, the system is equipped with a demonstrated anti-tank warhead and was designed based on lessons learned from Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to the company representative.
“Much of the world never thought we would widely see tanks fighting in Europe, yet here we are,” Tamir said. “We knew we had to develop a loitering munition with an anti-tank capability to respond to the demand for customers looking to destroy any type of military vehicle.”
The Rotem Alpha has a range of about 40 kilometers (25 miles) and can carry up to 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of payload. It has secured a launch customer — a NATO country — although the company would not say which one.
Another Israeli company to have launched a new system at the London-based conference is Elbit Systems with the reveal of its Skylark 1 eVTOL drone. It is the latest model of the Skylark family of unmanned aerial systems, which the Israel Defense Forces have operated since 2008.
The company signed a contract to provide the Skylark 1 eVTOL to the IDF’s Artillery Corps. Training operators to use the drone takes on average a few weeks, according to a company official.
Ziv Avni, vice president of marketing and business development at Elbit, highlighted the advantages of VTOL platforms, which he referred to as a clear market trend.
“This capability allows for greater ease of operation where the drone can land or be launched from anywhere, as it is runway-independent and landing is usually more precise, which makes it less likely critical payloads or infrastructure are damaged,” Avni said. “Its ability to hover in place also makes them ideal for operations requiring precise control and stability, such as surveillance.”
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.