Air Force (IAF) received this week the medium-altitude, long
endurance Heron Unmanned
Aerial Vehicle (UAV) system developed and produced by Israel
Aerospace Industries (IAI). The Heron UAV (IAF designation "Shoval")
has already been operational with the IAF through since the
2006 conflict in Lebanon, when an IAI owned Heron was employed
by joint IAI / IAF teams throughout the conflict. Its performance,
endurance, payload capacity and multi-sensor carrying capability
introduce new potential for the multi-task usage of UAVs. Heron
is the largest and heaviest of the IAF's UAV fleet, capable
of carrying the largest payloads, introducing more flexible
payload mix, compared to other UAVs in IAF service.
can fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet, and has an endurance
of over 40 hours. It can carry and operate a number of payloads
and sensors simultaneously. Powered by a quiet engine Heron
uses redundant systems, providing very high mission reliability.
The UAV has a wingspan of 16.6 meters, a maximum takeoff weight
of 1200 kg, a mission radius of hundreds of kilometers, and
a capability of flying under any weather conditions. The Heron
incorporates fully automatic launch, flight and recovery capabilities.
During test flights it demonstrated mission endurance of 52
hours with maximum fuel load; on standard missions Heron can
perform missions of up to 35 hours endurance, carrying a full
assembly of multiple mission payloads.
The IAF is also expected to field a larger strategic UAV platform
known as Heron II in
the coming months. The IAF is also evaluate options to provide
aerial refueling for long-endurance systems such as Heron and
Heron II, utilizing manned or unmanned platforms.