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​L3Harris Wants to Integrate Vampire Anti-Aircraft System with Naval Drones, That's Exactly What Ukraine Needs

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The Vampire system / Photo credit: L3Harris
The Vampire system / Photo credit: L3Harris

That's exactly the kind of situation where the success of the product gave a push for its further development

For starters, we should recall two things. Firstly, in February 2024 Ukraine's military shared footage indicating Vampire air defense systems were already taking down russian Shahed-136 aerial drones. Secondly, later in March Ukrainian military officials were talking about plans to install anti-aircraft weapons on maritime drones of domestic manufacture.

That brings us to the recent news: American company L3Harris has announced it wants to integrate their Vampire systems with small-sized uncrewed boats.

Read more: ​Ukraine Wants to Turn Suicide Sea Drones Into Air Defense Platforms: Which Weapons Would Fit
Ukrainian SeaBaby suicide unmanned surface vessel (USV) with additional RPV-16 grenade launchers / Defense Express / L3Harris Wants to Integrate Vampire Anti-Aircraft System with Naval Drones, That's Exactly What Ukraine Needs
Ukrainian SeaBaby suicide unmanned surface vessel with extra RPV-16 grenade launchers / Photo credit: Security Service of Ukraine

Jon Rambeau, the president of L3Harris’ Integrated Mission Systems, did not draw the connection between those facts specifically but he said in an interview to Defense News, the idea is being worked on in general. He also mentioned that the company was working on expanding Ukraine's capabilities in taking down russian drones and loitering munitions.

He stressed that those capabilities should be expanded for at least because the Vampire systems cost a "single-digit millions of dollars" per unit which makes them quite an efficient method to counter primitive and mass-produced Shahed-136/131 suicide drones.

As for the importance of naval integration, Rambeau pointed out how the United States has no battleships with laser systems yet that could take down cheap drones of Yemen's Houthis in the Red Sea effectively but without spending expensive anti-aircraft missiles. The same situation is unfolding in Ukraine which faces Shahed attacks coming from the side of the Black Sea.

Still, the representative from L3Harris did not specify who was the customer that requested developing a naval version of the Vampire. Defense News journalists speculate that both the American and Ukrainian navies could benefit from fielding this weapon. Why air defense systems would be a splendid upgrade to Ukraine's unmanned boats, Defense Express discussed in a dedicated article, particularly because in hunting these drones down, russian forces heavily rely on naval aviation.

Among the weapons we mentioned as fitting for that purpose, L3Harris' Vampire was present, although for that the Ukrainian and U.S. company's engineers would need to find a way to stabilize the platform because the system relies on precise pointing of a laser beam to guide an APKWS anti-air rocket toward its target.

For illustration, here's a video of how a Shahed-136 drone is downed from the POV of a ground-based Vampire system operator, published by the Ukrainian Navy. The laser beam is pointed manually:

Read more: ​Footage Suggests Vampire Systems with APKWS Rockets are Now Shooting Down Shahed Drones in Ukraine (Video)