Israel Places $50M Order for Heron MALE UAVs
The Israeli Air Force has placed a USD $50+ million order for Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Heron (Machatz 1) medium altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The IAF cited increased need for surveillance UAVs following withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The first Heron will be supplied in the next few days, and the order also includes a long-term maintenance contract.
The Heron/ Machatz is capable of flying for more than 50 hours at a time at altitudes exceeding 32,000 feet. It has a maximum range of about 3,300 kilometers and can carry a maximum payload weighing 250 kg/ 550 lbs. It is built to carry multiple payloads at a time for a variety of multiple missions, which can include electro-optical and thermal surveillance equipment, SAR radars for ground surveillance, maritime patrol radars and sensors, signals and other intelligence collection antennas and equipment (SIGINT/ ELINT/ COMINT), laser designators, and even radio relays.
As an ilustraton of the Heron’s ultiple-payload capabilities, the photo at the top of this article would appear to show a Heron UAV in SIGINT/ ELIT/ COMINT mode, plus a small electro-optical sensor in the nose and what appears to be a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for ground scanning.
The current contract follows a previous one with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in August 2003 for NIS 20 million a year for operating UAVs in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. Herons are also active in India, which recently conducted round-the-clock searches for victims of the 2005 tsunami using IAI Searcher and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Turkey recently finalized its own order for 30 Herons plus gound control stations and payloads. Finally, the Heron also forms the base platform for a number of other UAVs, including Dassault/EADS NV’s “Eagle,” and Northrop-Grumman’s Hunter II.
IAI’s UAVs have now accumulated more than 250,000 operational flight hours, which makes the Israeli firm one of the world’s most experienced UAV manufacturers.