Israel Air Force to Acquire More Heron-TP UAVs to Address Growing Operational Demands Despite Upscaled Acquisition in Recent Years

By ARIE EGOZI

Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv. Israeli air force (IAF) will acquire more Heron-TP (Eitan) UAVs to answer the growing operational demands. In recent years the number has been increased but more are needed.

This MALE UAV is manufactured by Israel aerospace industries (IAI) and has a max take-off weight 11.904 pounds and a wing span of 87 feet.

According to the IAF, the White Eagle squadron operating this strategic UAV is performing a long list of missions, many of them that have been performed until some years ago by manned aircraft.

“Most of our missions require long endurance and high altitude. The max operational altitudes of the UAS is up to 45.000 feet.” an IAF source said.

The 210 “White Eagle” squadron operates from the IAF Tel-Nof base, one of the force’s main bases. While on the main runways fighter aircraft are taking off and landing, the large, heavy UAS are being operated from an adjacent runway.

In recent years the number of Heron–TP grew and some of the recently deployed, have a greater max takeoff weight, to allow the use of advanced sensors and more fuel to increase endurance.

Flight hours of this strategic UAS have been increased by more than 25 per cent since the beginning of 2018.

The Max takeoff weight of Heron-TP has been increased and is now 11.904 pounds.

According to the IAF, the addition of 881 pounds, enables to perform “complicated missions” – in other words missions that require payloads to gather intelligence and protect the UAV, which is a big target in the skies.

The new version also includes an Israeli developed navigation system and a differential braking system.

The Heron-TP has an automatic takeoff and landing system, which allows operations in bad weather conditions. To begin a mission, the mission commander pushes a button, the huge UAV taxis out of its hangar, continues to the runway and takes off. The same sequence is used after mission completion.

The increase in the number of Heron-TP UAV is part of the IAF’s master plan meant to build the force’s UAV arsenal in the coming 15 years.

According to the IAF, the turnaround of the Heron–TP is very short and after landing, it is ready for another mission, in a very short time.

“The main advantage of this UAV is its capability to stay over the area of interest for a very long time. We have these UAS over areas of interest continually and their payloads supply the needed data using the very advance payloads.”

An enhanced list of missions performed by the Israeli air force (IAF) Heron TP, resulted is adding special payloads to this strategic UAV.

As per the IAF, the high degree of redundancy put into this UAV enables very long, uninterrupted missions, sometimes under very complex conditions.

These UAVs are deployed in many missions including persistence surveillance of what is defined as areas of interest like Syria where the Iranians are upgrading rockets to be used by the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sinai desert, where Islamist terror groups are operating.

-The writer is International Roving Correspondent of the publication