IAI Heron UAV aircraft 390 (R).
(photo credit: Tim Chong / Reuters)
The Heron TP, Israel’s most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, remains grounded
almost four months after one crashed during a test flight near the Tel Nof air
base outside Rehovot.
Two panels set up independently by the Israel Air
Force and Israel Aerospace Industries, the drone’s manufacturer, are still
investigating the cause of the crash and there is concern that the continued
grounding will affect a possible sale of the Heron TP to France.
time of the crash, officials said it occurred after the UAV performed a maneuver
that was beyond its capabilities, causing one of its wings to break off. The
aircraft was flying with a new navigation component that, as the IAF suspected
at the time, might have disrupted the drone’s automatic flight
The Heron TP is the air force’s largest UAV. It has a 26- meter
wingspan – the same as a Boeing 737 – and can stay airborne for over 24 hours.
It can carry a 1,000 kg. payload, making it capable of conducting a wide variety
According to foreign reports, it can also fire
missiles. In Israel it is often referred to as the UAV “that can reach
Last July, in the first export deal for the Heron TP, Israel
Aerospace Industries won a $500 million contract from France. The agreement has
yet to be signed and IAI is in the midst of negotiating the final details with
the French Defense Ministry. It hopes the sale will lead to additional contracts
for IAI as other countries, such as Germany, upgrade their UAV capabilities.