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US army considers Israeli made Firefly loitering mini drone

Developed by Rafael, the small Spike-Firefly is designed to be operated by a single soldier.

By Arie Egozi on May 03, 2022 at 1:13 PM

A soldier stands with an Israeli-made Firefly drone. (Credit: Rafael)

TEL AVIV: The US army is considering adding an unusual, miniature new drone to its arsenal: the Israeli-made Spike-Firefly.

The drone, which maker Rafael calls a “miniature electro-optical tactical loitering munition,” was among those tested at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, which wrapped up last month.

The Army is now analyzing the drone’s performance and is expected to decide soon on whether it’ll buy in.

Standing about 16 inches tall and weighing less than 5 pounds, the tube-shaped Firefly takes off vertically with coaxial rotor blades and can carry 350 gram warheads. The 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 on very agile targets, Rafael says. The drone can be used by a single operator, and its interface is designed to be as simple as possible to cut down on cognitive load — perhaps a strong selling point to a military struggling with data overload.

According to Gal Papier, vice president of business development at Rafael USA, 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 Firefly control unit). After training, the Firefly was used in urban area exercises. As part of the assessment the operators fired an inert firefly munition at a simulated enemy sniper position in an upper floor of a structure.

Maj. Pete Guo, who attened the US army trials, said British soldiers could envision scenarios in which the Firefly and other robotic solutions could save lives.

“Developing this type of technology will potentially allow commanders to place robotics and loiter munitions in harm’s way before committing humans, posing novel dilemmas for our adversaries whilst protecting our soldiers,” he said, particularly in an urban environment.

The Israeli military already uses the Firefly, after reportedly acquiring the weapon in May 2020. Sources said that the IDF has used it in operations against terrorists firing at IDF soldiers from buildings.

As for the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, 2022 marked the 18th year for the exercise, conducted annually at Fort Benning in Georgia. It’s designed now to “inform” Project Convergence, the Army’s sprawling contribution to the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort.

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