Saturday, February 4, 2023

Hitting ‘Point Blank’, Israel Unveils ‘Breakthrough’ Loitering UAV That Can Be Carried In A Soldier’s Backpack

As loitering munitions continue to hog the limelight globally, Israel’s defense manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries has unveiled a system that could be hand-launched and recovered based on the operator’s discretion.

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On January 19, the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled a new compact hand-launched loitering missile or an attack drone, that can land back in a soldier’s hand without detonating. The ‘Point Blank’ is a small electro-optic guided missile that fits within a soldier’s bag pack.

The missile is hand-launched, operated by a single soldier, and can take off from and land vertically back on the soldier’s hand.

IAI said in a press release, “IAI has unveiled its POINT BLANK electro-optically guided missile that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack. The system answers the battlefield requirement to provide tactical units ranging in size from small tactical teams to battalion level, with an independent and organic capability to increase their lethality.”

The IAI also announced that the US Department of Defense (DoD) had given IAI a multimillion-dollar contract to quickly develop and deliver “ROC-X,” a variant of the Point Blank system.

Concept art of Point Blank loitering munition-IAI

The ROC-X is expected to satisfy a specific US requirement and enhance small tactical teams’ organic precision strike lethality and survivability. In a nutshell, it will be tested and likely operated by US Special Operation Forces. The IAI will give the DoD the initial prototypes and training for operational testing and evaluation in the financial year 2023.

IAI’s Executive VP of Systems, Missiles & Space Group, Guy Bar Lev, said: “POINT BLANK joins Israel Aerospace Industries’ family of missiles to provide ground-based tactical forces with more precise capabilities to undertake offensive operations, especially against short-lived targets.

Besides developing a hand-launched missile for the United States, Israel is also developing the Iron Beam laser-based air defense system for its iron brother. Late last year, US defense contractor Lockheed Martin signed an agreement with the Israeli Rafael weapons manufacturer to join the development of the Iron Beam system.

As for the Point Blank or the ROC-X system, the Israeli announcement comes at a time when the use of loitering munitions, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and combat drones have demonstrated their utility in the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

However, despite repeated requests, Tel Aviv has refused to shed its inhibitions and send armaments to the beleaguered country.

What Do We Know About The Point Blank Weapon

The munition, according to IAI, is around three feet long and weighs about 15 pounds. It can also travel at top speeds of roughly 178 mph for up to 18 minutes while flying at altitudes over 1,500 feet. The Point Blank has been designed with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability.

When deployed, Point Blank will be able to loiter in the air over a target as the operator decides how to engage it and where to position it, according to IAI.

IAI’s claims that the system will provide high accuracy levels are supported by Point Blank’s Circular Error Probability, which calculates the average distance between the target and the end of the munition’s flight path using a circle’s radius, which is less than one meter. Further, it claims this holds true for both still and moving targets.

Point Blank will even be able to conduct “stealth operations,” according to IAI, because of the munition’s minimal acoustic and thermal trace. In addition, Point Blank will have a hybrid electro-optical (EO) and GPS guidance system that will enable the munition to verify and collect surveillance information in real-time.

 

According to IAI’s website, the munition’s Ground Data Link Terminal will be able to integrate into any current mobile network data link in terms of how it would communicate data back to the unit.

Point Blank can use manual and automatic flying modes, including the EO-based operator-in-the-loop control approach. Most loitering munitions are built with this feature to improve accuracy and offer a margin of safety because it would enable precise course correction right up to the point of impact.

The company further adds that Point Blank is “being developed to be equipped” with a two-kilogram warhead that uses an impact/proximity fuze, which can detect targets close by and detonate at a specific point. This would be the attack mode of this loitering munition.

In contrast, the reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) mode of Point Blank will only use its cameras. The IRS functions, as well as the combat capability, would significantly add to the expanding military prowess of the Israel Defense Forces. Further, the development of this system also vindicates the use of drones in modern warfare.

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