The Israel Air Force (IAF) has this week marked 40 years since the establishment of its first Unmanned Aerial Vehicles systems Squadron 200, at the IAF base in Palmachim.
To mark the occasion, a ceremony was held in the presence of current and veteran squadron members, including IAF Commander Major General Ido Nehushtan, senior Ministry of Defense officials, and representatives of the Israeli defense companies whose engineering capabilities and innovative prowess have pioneered Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) over four decades.
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) has led the IAF's UAV systems development over the past 30 years, since launching the IAF's first ever operational UAV, the Scout and through to today's Heron Turbo Prop.
The Scout UAV entered IAF operational service in 1981, and was highly effective in the First Lebanon War the following year. The Scout was finally retired only in 2004.
IAI's Searcher UAV became operational in 1992 and underwent an upgrade in 1998 with the entry of the Searcher II that included better engine performance, and advanced navigation and communication systems. Still operational with the IAF, Searcher is also in service with 10 customers worldwide, including with the Spanish Air Force that uses the UAV in operations in Afghanistan.
In 2005, the IAI Heron UAV, named Shoval, was introduced into the squadron. IAI maintenance teams support the Shoval UAV and its high operating tempo.
The Heron MALE UAV (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) weighs one ton and has a wingspan of 16.6 meters. It is designed to carry out both strategic and tactical missions at an altitude of up to 30,000 feet with the ability to loiter for up to 24 hours.
The Heron UAV can carry multiple payloads and operate them simultaneously when required: electro-optical payloads, maritime patrol radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), relay equipment, various communication systems and more, according to customer needs. The Heron UAV is operated by 15 different customers worldwide and functions as the central ISR aerial asset of the German, Australian, Canadian and French forces.
The latest addition to the IAF is its largest and most sophisticated UAV: the Heron Turbo Prop (TP) that was introduced to Squadron 210 in February 2010 under the name Eitan. The IAI-designed Heron TP can perform long range missions of over 1,000 kilometers, and can remain airborne for over 24 hours. The UAV has a powerful turbo-prop engine (1,200 horsepower), allowing it to reach altitudes of over 41,000 feet - higher than normal commercial aircraft flight operations.
The Heron TP's takeoff weight is five tons and the UAV has the ability to carry payloads weighing 1,000 kilograms. The Heron TP UAV incorporates an open architecture design allowing for the integration of multiple missions without need for significant changes to the base system, and providing flexibility to its operators in exchanging payloads as needed.
The Eitan has a wingspan of about 26 meters (similar to the wingspan of a Boeing 737 aircraft) and is designed to meet the demanding civil aviation authorities' certification requirements created in recent years in Israel and abroad.
IAI president and CEO Itzhak Nissan said:" Throughout the years, IAI delivered innovative UAV system, which have always been considered impressive technological achievements and have made both IAI and the State of Israel very proud. The UAVs are providing a crucial contribution to the IAF's operational capabilities."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 4, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011