Unmanned subs, sniper drones, gun that won’t miss: Israel unveils future weapons

Weapons Development Administration shows off the new armaments it is testing out, also including a hybrid tank and a fleet of autonomous vehicles

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The Defense Ministry’s weapons development department on Tuesday unveiled nine pieces of technology, including two unmanned submarines and a hybrid gas-electric powerful tank, that are due to enter service in the IDF in the coming years.

Some of these technologies are already in the advanced stages of development and have been presented to the military for consideration, while others are still in the planning phase and will need years before they will be combat ready. None of the technologies presented by the ministry has yet been declared operational by the IDF.

They were developed by the ministry’s Weapons Development Administration, in collaboration with foreign and domestic companies, and in one case with a public university.

The Weapons Development Administration, known in Hebrew by its acronym Mafat, is made up of thousands of workers, hundreds of soldiers. It manages some 1,500 defense projects at a given time.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Daniel Gold, who leads the department, said on Tuesday that he and his employees “try not to limit ourselves with the classic methodologies that are prevalent around the world,” which are typically top-down efforts.

Instead, he said, Mafat tries to connect with soldiers on the ground, determine what they need and then work to make them something that will fulfill that gap.

In addition, the department “tries to predict what the future battlefield will look like, in terms of both threats and technologies,” Gold said.

One of the more significant pieces of technology presented Tuesday was the Carmel armored vehicle, which is set to eventually replace the army’s current Merkava tank, in use for some 40 years.

In addition to its role as the military’s main battle tank, the Merkava is also the basis for the Namer armored personnel carrier and various combat engineering vehicles. According to the ministry, the Carmel is set to preform a similar function and can be outfitted with everything from howitzers to mine-clearing plows. And unlike the Merkava, which requires a four-person crew, the Carmel needs only two soldiers to operate it.

The new tank, which will feature a hybrid gas-electric motor, powered by a bank of batteries, is being developed by the Weapons Development Administration and the ministry’s Merkava Administration, along with various defense companies.

According to the ministry, the Carmel will be “light, small, fast, deadly, durable, easy to operate and comparatively cheap.”

The Weapons Development Administration also unveiled two unmanned submarines, one of them big and the other small.

The larger submersible, known as the Caesaron, can be equipped with a variety of sensors and payloads. It is specifically designed for intelligence gathering, the ministry said.

In addition to the larger Caesaron, the ministry also unveiled a small, as-yet-unnamed submarine that it is currently developing with the help of Bar Ilan University.

The small submersible drone is aimed at “searching and mapping missions,” the ministry said.

“It costs a third the amount of similar submarines in the world and surpasses them in its ability to float and move in every direction,” the ministry added.

The administration also unveiled three new types of drones. Two of them are transport unmanned aerial vehicles, while the third is an attack drone, capable of firing an attached assault rifle.

The two transport drones were developed for an open competition among defense contractors, called the “Green Yasuron.”

The ministry said the requirements for the competition were “deliberately very general: develop a small UAV or drone that will be able to fly autonomously to a distance of eight kilometers with a carrying capacity of 150 liters that weighs at least 60 kilograms.”

The drone would have to carry that package to a predetermined location, drop the package and return to its base.

Two very different UAVs completed the competition, one developed by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, the other by the private Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd.

The IAI drone is essentially a remote-controlled helicopter. It has one main rotor to keep it aloft and a second rear rotor to steer. The UAV is able to lift nearly 400 pounds (180 kilograms) and has a top speed of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour).

The Aeronautics UAV, on the other hand, has multiple rotors that get it in the air. The drone is much smaller and much less powerful, capable of carrying half the weight as IAI’s aircraft and flying half as fast.

As both completed the competition, there was no clear winner. The Defense Ministry said it was still considering how to proceed and use the two drones.

In addition, the Weapons Development Administration unveiled an attack drone produced by a US-based company called Duke Robotics, Inc.

The TIKAD, as the drone is known, is capable of carrying and accurately firing an assault rifle. The drone is already in advanced stages of developing and has been presented to the IDF for consideration.

“Its operability will be considered in the coming year,” the Defense Ministry said.

It would be used to “carry out sniper fire, create surprises on the field of battle and prevent risks to our troops,” the ministry said.

The Weapons Development Administration also presented a number of unmanned vehicles that the army is considering for use. This included pre-existing vehicles — trucks, D-9 bulldozers and front-loaders — that are modified to allow them to be controlled from afar or travel autonomouslyt, as well as specially made ones.

The ministry said it expected that these autonomous vehicles will be able to replace some manned ones in areas like combat engineering and logistics.

The IDF already has a number of autonomous patrol cars and trucks in service.

Finally, the ministry unveiled a new gun system that is supposed to ensure that soldiers only hit their targets and not any innocent bystanders.

The soldier uses an electro-optical aiming system to lock on to a target and can then set the gun to not fire at anything else with the push of a button.

“Tests that have been carried out until now found that use of the system significantly increased the percentage of hits on target and lessened the percentage of hits on ‘bystanders,'” the ministry said.

The SMASH system is expected to go into service with the IDF’s Ground Forces soon, the ministry said.

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