RADA and Smart Shooter selected by the DoD to Counter-Drone program

Two Israeli companies, RADA and Smart Shooter, made the shortlist of suppliers selected by the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-sUAS) program. The DoD’s aim is to asses the technologies that will be used to detect and intercept hostile drones and UAVs in various scenarios, and to implement the strategy across the Army. The DoD will also plan to develop a uniform command and control architecture that will ensure interoperatibility between the various systems.

RADA develops portable tactical radars that are used in anti-drones air defense systems, while Smart Shooter has developed a smart fire control system for small arms, which homes in on the target by employing AI-based image processing, and assists the soldier fire accurately. The two technologies are already in operational use by American forces as an anti-drones measure.

A multi-layered strategy

In its program, released a couple of weeks ago, the DoD defined four types of systems to address different threat scenarios: Fixed/Semi-Fixed Systems, Mounted/Mobile Systems, Dismounted/Handheld systems, and Command and Control Systems. The two Israeli technologies are designated for two different layers of protection: RADA’s radar is used in air defense systems, usually stationed on marine vessels, detecting UAVs from medium range of a few miles and intercept them by various means such as laser or radio blasts, whereas Smart Shooter’s sight allows a foot soldier to bring down the drone with his personal weapon.

The DoD examined about 40 systems, of which only 7 were selected. It is difficult to estimate the volume of orders that both companies are expected to benefit from the program, as it depends on future budgeting and the procurment plans of the various military arms. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the DoD plans to invest at least $500 million in 2021 in research, development and procurement to implement the program.

RADA’s radar took down an Iranian drone

RADA has developed a new breed of compact radar that can be mobilized along with combat forces in the field. They are able to detect relatively small and short-range threats, and therefore serve as the means of detection in active protection systems for armored vehicles – which detect and intercept mortars and RPG – and in short-range air defense systems, which identify and intercept  UAVs. In the DoD’s program, RADA’s radar has been designated for the category of mounted and mobile systems. It is also embedded into the only marine defense system (LMADIS) selected at this stage for the program.

RADA has not revealed the manufacturer of the whole system that incorporates the radar, but it is most likely the X-MADIS system manufactured by the US-based company Ascent Vision (AVT). That can be surmised as both companies reported seperately that their systems took part ib the shooting down of the Iranian drone that approached the assault ship USS Boxer while it cruised in the Persian Gulf in June 2019. Ascent Vision’s system is able to detect a drone from a range of several miles and intercept it using a strong RF blast, which disrupts the communication link between the drone and the remote operator.

RADA’s CEO Dov Sella said that the DoD’s choice constitutes a recommendation for all security apparatuses. “It emphasizes the positioning of our radars as the primary option for any C-sUAS solution. We believe that this selection will increase our share in this growing market in the near term.” Counter-Drone efense systems are the most growing end market for RADA’s tactical radars. It has previously been reported that the U.S. Navy has already purchased about 150 of the company’s radar systems for assimilation into its air defense systems. RADA’s radar is also installed in Rafael’s drone interception system, Drone Dome.

To transforms every soldier into a sniper

Smart Shooter’s system was selected as one of the only three systems in the fourth category defined by the DoD: dismounted/Handheld Systems. If address the most direct confrontation, in which an infantry soldier need to destroy a drone hovering above with only his own weapon. It is exceptionally hard: The soldier is at great disadvantage vis-à-vis the drone, and his chances of hitting it are slim.

Based in a Kibbutz near Haifa, Smart Shooter was founded by two ex-Rafael’s rocket division, CEO Michal Mor and CTO Avshalom Ehrlich. The company developed a fire control system named SMASH, that can be fitted using a rail on top of any assault rifle. The soldier operates a system that homes in on the target using electro-optical sensors and tracks it using AI-aided image processing. It automatically aiming at the target, which allows the soldier to point the weapon effortlessly, and when the barrel is at the right angle the trigger is automatically released. The company estimates that the system dramatically improves the accuracy rates, even by less-skilled infantry soldiers, and even under poor visibility and under pressure and fatigue, and minimize the risk of harming the uninvolved.

The system is being used by the United States Army Special Forces in Iraq and Syria, and also by special units of the IDF on the Gaza border. Company CEO Michal Mor said that the DoD’s selection of the company’s technology comes after close collaboration with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). “Our solution enables an accurate, swift and simple elimination of a hostile drone. Choosing us is a testament to the operational value that our technology has for the mission.”