Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems has agreed to team up with an Israeli company to develop small drones for use as remote-control missiles by the U.S. military.
As part of the deal, Raytheon will adapt the Hero 30 “lethal loitering airborne system,” made by UVision Air Ltd., as an expendable drone for ground attacks as well as for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
The Hero 30 can be carried by one person in a backpack, launches from a pneumatic canister system and uses an electric motor to circle over a battle area for up to 30 minutes before being directed to a target.
It uses an electro-optic and infrared sensor and carries a roughly one-pound warhead.
Designed for small-unit and special-forces missions, the adapted Hero 30 system will meet the U.S. Army’s pending requirement for Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems, also known as LMAMS, Raytheon said.
“This system significantly enhances the situational awareness and combat power of small units operating on the battlefield,” Thomas Bussing, Raytheon vice president of advanced missile systems, said in a news release announcing the partnership.
Other companies are competing for the LMAMS program.
AeroVironment Inc. has provided thousands of its Switchblade expendable drones to the Army for use in Afghanistan since 2012 and is refining its design for the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems program.
Textron and Lockheed Martin also are among the companies reportedly vying for the work.
Raytheon has significant in-house drone expertise.
Missile Systems produces its own small, tube-launched expendable drone, the Coyote, that has been tested by the Navy and used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to gather data from inside hurricanes.
Raytheon’s larger Silver Fox reconnaissance drone has been used by the Navy and Marine Corps.
Raytheon acquired both platforms with its purchase of Tucson-based Sensintel last year.
Missile Systems also produces the rocket-powered Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, or MALD, an unmanned craft that mimics the radar signature of a jet fighter to divert attention away from attack aircraft, and a radar-jamming MALD-J version.