Loitering Munition

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
Haifa, Israel

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and its US subsidiary RSGS demonstrated the SPIKE FIRELFY loitering munition at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment 2022 (also known as AEWE). AEWE 2022 is a collaborative venue under the Maneuver Battle Lab of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. It is the Army’s primary venue for small unit modernization, providing capability developers, Cross Functional Teams (CFTs), PEO’s, the Army Science and Technology (S&T) community, and industry a repeatable, credible, rigorous operational experiment supporting both concept and materiel development. This year the assessment included, in addition to US Army, soldiers from the Netherlands Army and the United Kingdom Army.

SPIKE FIRELFY is part of the SPIKE Family of precision guided electrooptical missile systems, a portable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) miniature tactical loitering munition designed for ground organic precision strike for close combat forces in any environment. The FIRELFY munition includes an advanced multispectral seeker with both uncooled IR sensor, high-definition CMOS day sensor, as well as a proximity sensor, allowing the system to detect, identify, track and home in on very agile targets. In addition to the seeker the munition includes an encrypted data link and a lethal blast fragmentation warhead.

During the assessment over a two-day period, seven infantry squads were qualified in operation of the weapon system using inert rounds and an embedded trainer (simulation of operation as part of the FIRELFY control unit). Following the training, the squads participated in force-on-force exercises within an urban area, deploying the FIRELFY munitions in different tactical scenarios to support infantry squad maneuver while enhancing both survivability, situational awareness, and lethality.

The SPIKE FIRELFY was found to be a disruptive product that allows the infantry platoon a beyond line-of-sight engagement capability, engaging the enemy behind cover with no warning while allowing the platoon leader to close its own sensor-to-shooter cycles with no need for external call for fire. The SPIKE FIRELFY’s unique feature of full returnability up to arming of the munition allowed the squads to send the munition as a frontal robotic point-man, scanning the streets and detecting/removing threats from the path of the maneuvering squads while calling the munition back to the operator for another mission if targets were not detected or engaged.

As part of the assessment, the operators fired a live inert FIRELFY munition intercepting an enemy sniper position in an upper floor of a structure, simulating a scenario in which the whole platoon is under suppressive fire with the need to detect and engage the threat while the force is taking cover. The SPIKE FIRELFY provided the soldiers with the capability to engage a high-value target with pinpoint accuracy while reducing risk to the force and collateral damage.

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