Israeli company tests 'suicide drones' for secret foreign buyers

Israeli military technology company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) completed a series of flight tests of its upgraded 'suicide drones' for anonymous foreign buyers on Sunday, the company has revealed.

The Harop Loitering Munitions drone has the ability to stay in the air for up to six hours and hover above its targets. The drone then strikes the target and simultaneously detonates on board explosives, akin to a suicide bomber.

"These demonstrations follow various other successful operational exercises performed in the last few months for different customers," the company said in a statement. It added that the latest version of the Harop drone demonstrated "better maneuvering and target destruction".

The drones boast 15kg warheads and can attack its target, moving or stationary, from anywhere between a flat and vertical angle. In the tests for the clients, the drone "loitered for several hours until the target was selected. Then, with maximum precision, it dived directly on to it," the statement continued.

While the potential buyers of the drone were not disclosed by the Israeli company, a report by Drone Wars UK published in January last year shows that the Harop drone has previously been exported to Germany, India and Turkey.

Andrew Smith of the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says that foreign buyers should refrain from buying munitions that have been 'battle-tested' on Israel's neighbouring populations, specifically in the Gaza Strip. Israeli companies have faced criticism for marketing their military hardware as "battle-tested" in conflicts in Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip.

"Israel dominates the global drone market, and the people of Gaza are among those that have paid the price," says Smith. "Unfortunately there will be no change as long as war and conflict continue to make money for the companies that produce these deadly wares.

"There needs to be an end to arms sales to Israel, and an end to all military collaboration with companies that are 'battle testing' their equipment on Palestinians," he adds.

One study published by business consultancy Frost and Sullivan in 2013 revealed that between 2005 and 2013, Israel exported €4.1bn worth of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), making it the largest exporter of drones in the world.

The study showed that Europe, Asia and Latin America the predominant markets for Israeli aerial hardware. The UAVs are remotely controlled by military personnel. It added that Israel's total military exports, as of 2013, were worth a total of €5.34 bn annually.

A representative from IAI was not immediately available for comment.