Israel acquires FireFly loitering munition for close combat

The lightweight loitering munition FireFly gives an operator up to 1.5 kilomters of line-of-sight use and 500 meters non-line-of-sight use. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

By Seth J. Frantzman

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Ministry of Defense has procured the FireFly, a lightweight loitering munition designed for infantry and special forces.

Jointly developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the MoD, FireFly’s canister-deployed design with multiple rotors enables it to hover around buildings and attack concealed enemies that may be beyond line of sight or hiding in urban environments.

FireFly is designed to fulfill a need that platoons and smaller units have on the modern battlefield for an unmanned system that is rugged and lightweight. Mini-UAVs are increasingly in demand for infantry use, and the ability to combine them with loitering munitions that can conduct surveillance and attack has become the next step for ground forces.

 

FireFly was designed over the last 15 years based on sketches produced as far back as the Six-Day War, when Israeli soldiers had to fight in the early morning amid trenches in Jerusalem during the Battle of Ammunition Hill. Also taken into account during the design period were Israel’s experiences fighting militants in close combat in urban areas, such as the Gaza Strip, as well as knowledge of the difficulties armies have faced in fighting in places like Mosul, Iraq, against the Islamic State group.

Gal Papier, director of business development at Rafael’s Tactical Precision Weapons Directorate, said the current FireFly model has a seeker, warhead and data link with electro-optical features that are similar to Rafael’s larger Spike missile family. The Spike group of munitions includes precision-guided tactical missiles. The main difference is the addition of dual rotors so the FireFly can hover and remain stable in windy environments.

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