Under a multimillion-dollar, multi-year contract, Israel will develop and deliver new hand-launched and recoveryable loitering munition to the U.S. Department of Defense. Israel Aerospace Industries, a state-owned company, will design the vertical take-off-and-landing drone with missile-like capabilities.
It does indeed look a bit like an X-wing.
An Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) press release explains that the company will produce and provide prototype versions of Point Blank designated as ‘ROC-X’ to the United States. ROCX-X will be customized to meet Defense Department requirements (DOD). The contract was awarded to IAI by the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD), which is responsible for exploring new capabilities with a particular focus on special operations forces missions.
The contract announcement also acts as IAI’s official unveiling of Point Blank, which the company is touting as a recoverable and reusable “electro-optically guided missile that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack.” However, it’s worth noting that the Point Blank system seems far more reminiscent of a loitering munition, sometimes referred to as an optionally reusable ‘kamikaze’ drone, than it does a missile.
“Point Blank joins Israel Aerospace Industries’ family of missiles, to provide ground-based tactical forces with more precise capabilities to undertake offensive operations, especially against short-lived targets,” Guy Bar Lev, executive vice president for IAI’s Systems, Missiles & Space Group, was quoted as saying in the press release. “We wish to thank the IWTSD for its support and cooperation in the field of precision munitions, confirming, yet again, the importance of tactical missiles to the modern army.”
The hand-launched Point Blank is small enough that one soldier can operate it. The munition weighs approximately 15 pounds and is about 3 feet in length according to IAI. The munition will be capable of flying up to 1,500 feet in 18 minutes and can reach speeds of around 178 mph. Point Blank will have vertical take off and landing (VTOL), capability.
IAI claims that Point Blank can hover above targets while being launched. This is similar to loitering munitions. The drone will also come with what an IAI brochure is calling an ‘abort option’ for automatic return and landing, which means in addition to being able to launch directly from the operator’s hand, Point Blank can also be called back to land right in the same grip if needed.
The company brochure also states that Point Blank’s Circular Error Probability, which uses the radius of a circle to determine the average distance between the target and the end of the munition’s flight path, is less than one meter, supporting IAI’s claims that the system will offer high levels of accuracy. According to IAI this is true for both stationary and mobile targets.
The literature goes on to say that due to the munition’s low acoustic and thermal signature, Point Blank will even be capable of ‘stealth operations’ as well.
Point Blank will come equipped with a hybrid electro-optical (EO) and GPS guidance system, allowing the munition “to validate and collect surveillance information in real-time” as IAI describes it. In terms of how it will transmit data back to the unit, IAI’s website page for Point Blank explains that the munition’s Ground Data Link Terminal will be able to integrate into any existing mobile network data link.
Point Blank offers both manual and fully automated flight modes. This would also include the EO-based, operator-in-the loop control concept that Israeli defense companies have been leading in. This would allow for fine-tuned correction of course right up to the point at impact. This is something that most loitering ammunition are designed with in order to increase safety and accuracy. This would allow you to hit known fixed targets independently.
Point Blank was created to enable smaller ground-based tactical groups and larger battalions to have a mobile and precise capability that can engage different targets. This includes naval domains.
The company also states that Point Blank is “being developed to be equipped” with a 2 kg warhead that leverages an impact/proximity fuze, which provides target proximity detection and point-detonation capabilities. This would comprise Point Blank’s ‘attack mode’ as described by IAI, while the munition’s reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) mode will utilize only its cameras.
Which configuration the DOD will be receiving from IAI — be it modified for RSTA, attack, or both — was confirmed to The War Zone Today, the IWTSD.
“As the [press release] states,” said IWTSD staff, “ROC-X is the version of Point Blank that Israel IAI is developing for IWTSD. Israel IAI will build the initial ROCX platform. [RSTA]. IWTSD will receive 10 Point Blank ROCX versions this summer to be used for operational testing and evaluation. [Special Operations Forces]. However, a lethal version of ROCX must be Americanized. This means that the lethal package will need to be integrated and safety testing done in the U.S. This phase of the project should begin later this year.”
IAI claims that it will provide training to operators in addition to the delivery of 10 RSTA-configured ROCX Point Blank prototypes in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2023.
Point Blank will be an addition to the growing number of Israeli drone-like attack or surveillance capabilities. IAI Systems and Elbit Systems are two local companies that have been producing systems similar to this in recent years. They focus on smaller units supporting ground units with situational awareness, attack capabilities, and support them. Elbit Systems introduced LANIUS last November, a small search-and-attack loitering munition that uses racing drones. It is designed for urban warfare.
Although similar systems have existed for many years and the utility of soldier launched loitering munition has only been highlighted in the conflict in Ukraine, this system stands out because of its ease-of-use and recovery, as well as its higher performance. Beyond that, the system stands as another reminder that aerial surveillance and precision bombardment continue to be ‘democratized’ down to the squad and even the individual soldier level with increasing ease of use and expanding capabilities.
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The Drive’s post Israeli X-Wing Looking Loitering Munition to Be Tested by U.S. Special Ops originally appeared on The Drive