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Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV)

The Protector unmanned surface vehicle (USV) was developed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and as to their website was the first operational combat USV in service.

The Protector is remotely controlled and can be operated with guidance from a commander and operator located ashore or aboard a manned vessel.

It is in use by the Israeli Navy, a civilian customer and other naval forces around the world, among them Singapore and Mexico.[1] [2] [3] [4]

The PROTECTOR AT/FP can be integrated with the MINI-TYPHOON Stabilized RCWS. In addition, an enhanced remotely-controlled water cannon system for fire-fighting capabilities can be installed. In the official brochure on the website of Rafael the Protector is signed as “combat proven”. It also says that a Spike missile launching system can be integrated on the vessel.[5]

In 2005, it was deployed by the Singapore Navy to support coalition forces in the Sea of Japan, and was later deployed for anti-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden.[6]

In the case of Mexico, PEMEX, the state owned petroleum company, acquired 6 Protector vehicles in coordination with the Mexican Navy (SEMAR).[7]

In August 2006 the Israeli Protector Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) has arrived in the U.S. , to take part in a series of demonstrations for the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other maritime security agencies. Rafael, the developer of the Protector is cooperating with BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin to pursue business opportunities in North America.[8]

Protector has been demonstrated in service with navies in Asia, Persian Gulf and the Middle east.[9]

The Protector USV was featured at the U.S. Special Operations Command trade show in Tampa Bay, Florida, in Little Creek, Virginia, in San Diego, and in Washington, D.C.[10]

The Protector USV-SSM (Surface-surface missile) is an operationally proven USV integrated with a Spike-ER stabilized Missile Launcher.

In March 2017, Rafael announced it had completed a series of successful tests in which a number of SPIKE missiles were launched from the Protector and hit simulated enemy targets. This was the first-ever missile firing from an operational, remote-controlled USV.[11]

In 2018 Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and NATO carried out joint training of the Protector off the Israeli coast, demonstrating the USV’s capabilities against naval swarm threats. The demo included a simulated firing of Spike missiles to neutralize the threat.[12]

Rafael presented the Protector also at the Euronaval 2020, the virtual edition of an international naval defense fair.[13]

Variations: Protector AT/FP (9m or 11m), Protector-SSM


Photo: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Use by Israeli forces:

Purchased by the Israeli Navy for millions of dollars in 2009.[14] [15]

Operational since 2012. [16] The vessel was deployed by the Israel Navy off the Gaza coast.[17] In 2016 it was reported that the Israeli Navy integrated the 3rd generation of the Protector.[18]

Israeldefense reported in 2020 that the Israeli Navy stopped the operation of the Protector for defense patrol missions and is going to use the USV only for detection of submarines and the disarming of maritime bombs.[19]


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Suicide Drone

The Harpy is a loitering munition, or “suicide drone” produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The Harpy is designed to attack radar systems and carries a high explosive warhead. In 2004, when Harpys sold to China in 1995 were to be upgraded in Israel in 2004, the USA demanded Israel seize them, after they were spotted in a Chinese military drill in 2002, though Israel claimed the Harpys had no US components, and therefor the US had no claim on them. Eventually Israel didn’t upgrade the drones, but did return them to China.

The Harop, first sold in 2005 to Turkey, is a later development of the Harpy. It can operate both fully autonomously, or be manually operated in its human-in-the-loop mode. If a target is not engaged, the drone can return and land itself back at base. In both 2016 and 2020, the Harop was by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.


While the Harop is in operational use by the Israeli Navy, we do not know of any use of it in combat by Israel to date.