Rheinmetall and its partner UVision have won a first order from a major European NATO military force for HERO loitering munitions. The customer, a special forces formation, ordered Hero-30 combat and training munitions, simulator, training courses as well as integrated logistics equipment and support. The order was placed in July 2022, with delivery scheduled to take place by 2023. This first order is worth a figure in the single-digit million-euro range with possible additional orders might be expected in the future. The exact number of munitions to be supplied is classified. For both Rheinmetall and UVision, the order is of particular importance as it is the first delivery to a major European NATO force. The contract was awarded under secrecy clauses which limit revealing its full details to the public. This strengthens the joint presence of both partners in Europe. However, prior to awarding the contract, the customer conducted a market survey indicating that the HERO family had already proven itself in service with other armed forces such as the United States Marine Corps.
Hero loitering munition is a series of operationally proven, widely deployed effectors, manufactured and distributed in Europe as part of a cooperation between UVision Air Ltd. and Rheinmetall’s Italian subsidiary RWM Italia S.p.A. In October 2021, Rheinmetall and the Israeli company UVision entered a strategic partnership in the field of loitering munition. In this partnership, Rheinmetall and UVision are jointly addressing the rapidly growing market for remote-controlled precision ammunition. Loitering munitions – remote-controlled airborne precision-strike munitions – combine the operational advantages of drones and guided missiles. The systems provide front-line forces with a combination of advanced intelligence gathering and target acquisition capabilities along with extended range firepower, which until now could only be achieved by complex coordination between several units and echelons.
The term loitering munition (“LM” for short) is derived from the munition’s ability to remain undetected in the airspace above the target area for an extended period of time and to strike when the right moment arrives.
Versatile and easy to operate, loitering munitions can be used in national and allied defence as well as in low-intensity conflicts or peace stabilization operations. LM offers the military user considerable cost advantages over guided missiles, delivering comparable effectiveness as well as the ability to reconnoitre, locate and track targets from the air for an extended period. An important tactical advantage of the operationally proven UVision HERO systems lies in their high-precision strike capabilities, which results in minimal risk of collateral damage. Continuous monitoring in accordance with the “human in the loop” principle enables calculated, pinpoint attacks that are precisely tailored to the timing and conditions of a constantly changing situation.
A loitering munition system includes a single or multi-canister launcher, a loitering munition (or multiple LMs if the latter), communication technology, and a ground control module for the operator. The loitering munitions themselves are remote-controlled small air vehicles, each of which can attack ground targets – even beyond the line of sight. All models are equipped with high-resolution electro-optical sensors and infra-red cameras that enable the operator to locate, monitor and ultimately engage even time-critical low-signature targets. In this way, enemy targets can be located, tracked, and verified to conduct precise strikes. The HERO system can abort an attack in mid-air, return to flight mode and then resume the attack or reassign other targets, giving operators great tactical flexibility on the modern battlefield. In addition, it was noted that due to the high operability of the HERO systems family, there is the possibility that the customer will also introduce the next-in-series HERO loitering munitions into its forces in the future.