Military Knowledge: Meraj-521 Loitering Munition
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled the Meraj-521 miniature loitering munition for the first time. The Meraj-521 drone is very similar to the US Switchblade loitering munitions in terms of appearance and performance, and is considered a new and important initiative in the combat organization of the Iranian Armed Forces.
Meraj-521 loitering munition was unveiled and deployed on October 19, during the “Eghtedar ” drill of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in the northwest of Iran.
The Meraj-521 is a suicide drone that is used against infantry targets and enemy light vehicles. The dimensions of these drones are so small that it can be carried in a backpack. This drone is launched from a tubular launcher, and after launch, its wings are opened and it will roams over the desired areas. The operator directs the drone to the target with the screen it has, and the command to attack or change the target and roam around in the environment is available. If a situation causes a strike to be called off, the operator can call off the drone and re-target it
The main mission of the Meraj-521 is to attack light armored vehicles, trenches, personnel, etc.
The Meraj-521 suicide drone is similar in appearance to the US switchblade drone and has four folding wings, two in the front and two in the back, as well as two folding vertical rudders at the end of the drone.
During the exercise and unveiling, two examples of this drone were seen, one with the equal wingspan and the other with smaller front wings; But in the drone test video, the drones had smaller front wings. This brings to mind the speculation that the first model with equal wingspan was probably a replica of Meraj-521.
Meraj-521 has three different warhead weights of 500 grams, 700 grams, and 1000 grams and its flight endurance is between 5 and 15 minutes, and its maximum range is 5 kilometers.
Combining the use of the Meraj-521 suicide drone with hand-launched reconnaissance drones can make it possible to engage targets at longer ranges.
The total weight of the Meraj-521 drone has not been announced, but this drone can be carried by a person. The Meraj-521 drone is powered by an electric motor to fly and relies on a special solid fuel booster to exit the launch tube. Electric motors make very little noise and their radar cross-section is also small, and air defense systems are practically unable to intercept them.
Meraj-521 has the ability to be launched from various platforms such as tactical vehicles, helicopters, gyrocopters, etc. In the IRGC “Eghtedar” exercise, a video of various launches of this tactical and practical UAV was released, which can be seen in this video.
Another strategic and important feature of this kind of drones is the swarm attack. In swarm attack, a large number of these drones are launched towards the target and saturate the target’s defense systems, making it impossible to prevent the attack.
Considering the experiences of the war in Ukraine as well as the experience of recent years in Syria and Iraq, the need to design and build these drones was felt in the combat organization of the Iranian Armed Forces. Due to the fact that Iran has a shortage of fighter jets and practically in battles outside Iran’s borders, close air coverage of the operating ground forces is very difficult and perhaps impossible. Also, if troops use anti-armor missile systems that are carried by pesron, it is very large, heavy and expensive; so using loitering munition such as Meraj-521 can solve this problem to a great extent.
The Meraj-521 drone is innovative, cheap, light, effective and highly efficient and meets the tactical needs of special forces of Iranian military.
Meraj-521 drone specifications:
Range: 5 km
Endurance: 15 minutes
Warhead weight: 500-700-1000 grams
Length: ~ 75 cm
Front wingspan: ~ 75 cm
Rear wingspan: ~ 100 cm
Flight altitude: ~ 150 meters
Collection of posters of Meraj-521 Loitering Munition in Russian (Мерадж-521 Дрон), Persian (پهپاد معراج-۵۲۱), Chinese (Meraj-521 无人机), Hebrew (Meraj-521 מזלט), Arabic (مسيرة معراج-521), Azeri (Merac-521 Dronu) and Kurdish (درۆنی مێعراج-521):