3/11/2014 Ami Rojkes Dombe
At Rafael they understand that the frequency of wars fought in urban environments will increase. For this reason, they have recently launched two new products - a precision rocket and a tactical rotorcraft
Rafael aspires to enter the world of artillery and for this purpose they developed "Iron Flame" – an autonomous precision artillery rocket system, immune to GPS jamming that produces minimum collateral damage. With this product, Rafael has succeeded in offering a relatively inexpensive precision guided, long-range weapon designed specifically for urban warfare. The rocket relies on image comparison navigation – a capability derived from the field of aerial munitions in which Rafael specializes.
"During the Yom-Kippur War, 70,000 artillery shells were fired and during the Second Lebanon War 150,000 shells were fired. This is a weapon system with very limited effectiveness. If you aim to hit a specific house, you might hit another house," explains Aviram L., marketing manager at Rafael's Precision Tactical Munitions Administration. "Our system makes it possible to hit targets accurately even in a scenario saturated with GPS jammers. We have a (guidance) capability based on image comparison. It is a unique Rafael capability that makes it possible to execute a very accurate strike even in urban scenarios, using aerial reconnaissance photographs as a reference image."
The system consists of rocket canisters and mobile launchers. The nose of each rocket contains a guidance unit (which incorporates an uncooled IR camera, a computer, a navigation system, fins for aerodynamic steering and a battery supplying power). The rocket body contains an integral penetration warhead and a rocket engine. The mode of employment is selected according to the scenario and the mission at hand: autonomous acquisition and homing, acquisition and homing onto a laser spot or inertial homing combined with GPS.
The system can also deal with mobile targets using laser designation, but Aviram stresses that the system was not originally intended to handle mobile targets. "An artillery system is intended to handle stationary targets. That is its primary function," says Aviram. "We analyzed artillery scenarios, with the objective of destroying a (specific) house as the primary scenario. We wanted a weapon that avoids a high degree of dispersion owing to the collateral damage. Our working assumption was that the world is going in the direction of urban warfare, as in the near future most of the territory will be built up. In an open area, accuracy is less important."
As in the world of missiles, the launcher of the Iron Flame system is fixed and the missile maneuvers along an optimal trajectory. The people of Rafael say that two capability-proving trials have already been conducted. The Iron Flame launcher consists of 10 tubes and may be installed on land platforms, including Jeeps, as well as on naval platforms.
While other missile systems, such as the Spike system, involve a man in the loop, the Iron Flame system operates autonomously: the operator loads the target into the system by "stabbing" an image, and the system launches the rocket. The process of loading the image into the system takes a few seconds. Aviram says that targets may also be loaded into the system using Google Earth. "The system is open to any accurate map reference system. We aim at the international market, where most of the systems are GPS-based."
Maoz: Tactical Loitering Surveillance System
Along with the Iron Flame system, Rafael has unveiled another tool that can come in handy in urban warfare situations – the Maoz. It is a tactical rotorcraft possessing surveillance capabilities, which had been designed specifically for maneuvering infantry forces. The Maoz may be used for short-range surveillance missions. It can operate in urban warfare scenarios and in open terrain and cope with entangled fortified areas, built-up areas and subterranean spaces (inside buildings and tunnels) with no line of sight between the operator and the target.
How does it work? The operator carries several rotorcraft and a light control unit (a touch screen) in his combat vest. When required, he pulls the loitering rotorcraft out of its canister and positions it on the ground. The rotorcraft is then launched into the air and transmits a real-time image. A warfighter who had received specialized training in flying the rotorcraft in a combat zone will guide the Maoz toward its target using a simple operating routine.
"Rafael aims at the tactical world. Products like the Mini-Spike and Spike SR are aimed at the platoon/company echelon with the purpose of being accessible to every trooper. We wanted to manufacture something that would come packaged in a convenient, compact packaging. It was a substantial challenge," explains Aviram.
In a built-up area, the operating range of the Maoz is 1.5 kilometers. It can operate at a height of 50 meters and remain airborne up to 30 minutes or up to eight hours in a fixed surveillance position. It includes daytime surveillance measures (CMOS) and active night illumination that enable it to detect human targets at a range of 180 meters. It can chart a building/tunnel in 3D and also has backup sensors for navigation. Inside a building, navigation is carried out through image processing. The people at Rafael say that at the moment, the Maoz is at the demo stage and undergoes preliminary tests. "It is a new idea that we have never developed in the past. We do not yet know what we are missing, and for that we would require an operational examination," says Aviram.
"We think that in the long run, the urbanization trend will continue. Since the War of Independence through the Yom-Kippur War to this day, urban warfare scenarios have been occupying an increasingly higher volume. If we can offer attractive solutions for this scenario, we will be ahead of the market."