The "loitering munition" is the logical evolution of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) / Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Early forms of the type were dedicated to Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) roles and led to more advanced armed models capable of search, tracking, and engagement. The loitering munition is an expendable weapon where the UAV serves as the delivery method for its explosive payload. Such types are also known under the general names of "kamikaze drone" and "suicide drone", better detailing their over-battlefield roles. The earliest examples were seen in the 1980s.
Israel has been a pioneer and primary player in the field of unmanned aircraft systems and the IAI "Harpy" is largely considered one of the first suicide drones in existence - these initially used in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and now broadened to include short-, medium-, and long-range solutions in fire support and tactical strike roles. Loitering munitions have proven cost-effective with small profiles and nearly zero acoustic signatures - making them as close to a perfect weapon as can be had today.
The Elbit "Skystriker", another Israeli development, is billed as such - a long-range, cost-effective loitering munition that provides, not only on-call firepower, but tactical reconnaissance capabilities over an active warzone. The system can support conventional troops on the ground as well as special forces operatives requiring precision striking. It is a fully-autonomous system capable of search, track, and engagement actions with target designation accomplished by the ground operator.
As the unit utilizes an all-electric motor drive for propulsion, it is only audible near the point of impact, rendering the target neutralized before it can react.
The Skystrike carries its 5 kilogram warhead within the fuselage and showcases low-cost avionics through a conventional design arrangement. The wing mainplanes are mounted low against the sides of the tubular fuselage and a single-rudder tail unit is featured at the extreme aft-end of the vehicle. The two-bladed propeller unit sits at the end of the fuselage in a "pusher" configuration.
Azerbaijan is a known operator of the Skystriker UAV platform and has been actively using its fleet of drones against neighboring Armenia in its October 2020 war. The nation tested the product in September of 2019 and has moved to grow its reliance on unmanned types as well as long-range weaponry. The Azerbaijan State Border Service ordered the vehicles in 2019 and became the first foreign operator of the type.
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