WASHINGTON — A unit of the U.S. Marine Corps conducted firing tests on targets in Southern California, south of San Clemente Island, using loitering munition fired from the ground but navigated by a Marine sitting comfortably in a UH-1Y Venom helicopter. Control of the Hero 400 [loitering munition] was performed via a tablet and onboard sensors of the helicopter. All targets were successfully hit with precision.
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The Israeli Hero 400 drone is known to be an autonomous device that can interact with similar ones on the ground. The test was needed to show the same interaction between the loitering munition and the aircraft, away from it, as was the case with the Marine helicopter. Drone control was taken over by Marine Corps Capt. Michael Ayala. During the whole operation, Ayala not only had to hit the targets but also monitor the connection between the drone and the helicopter [via its tablet], as well as to ensure the safety of the flight of the two aircraft.
Capt. Michael Ayala says that very important data and characteristics of the whole operation have been collected, which in the future will serve as a basis for building real combat autonomous missions. Ayala expressed his satisfaction with the test, saying it was not only a demonstration of ability but also a lesson in safe use.
Hero 400 is part of a series of products for loitering munition of the Israeli company UVision Air, which has its representative office and design unit in the United States. Apart from Hero 400, the other products in this category are Hero 20, Hero 30, Hero 70, Hero 120, Hero 250, Hero 900, and Hero 1250.
HERO-400 is a long-range loitering munition system for strategic targets and for missions where heavy ammunition is involved. Hero 400 weighs 50 kilograms, has a range of 120+ kilometers, and the drone warhead weighs 10 kg. It can fly in the air for a maximum of 120 minutes. It is powered by an electric motor and the method of launch is rail, single / multi-canister.
Unless guided by an operator [as is the case with the Marine Corps in the helicopter], this drone can automatically search, detect, recognize and attack targets, committing suicide. Hero 400 strikes precise blows on moving or static targets.
The test performed by the US Marine Corps adds a new capability to operational action by the Marines. Controlling this type of drone from land, air, or sea not only expands the scope of a possible strike or counteraction, but ensures a new way of fighting a battle, saving lives, or more expensive weapons equipment. The 120 km range of the Hero 400 means that the US Marines will be much more flexible in missions.
The U.S. Marine Corps is already undertaking training courses among its members across the country on test results and the benefits of using loitering munition as part of the corps’ future armaments.
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