The air force unveiled a new drone as wide as a Boeing 737 on Sunday, at the Tel Nof air base near Rehovot, marking a new stage in Israel’s long-range operational and intelligence capabilities.
The Israel Aerospace Industries-made Heron TP (dubbed “Eitan” by the air force) is one of the largest unmanned aerial vehicles in the world.
It can fly at medium-to-high altitudes for more than 20 hours, while carrying a variety of payloads and advanced equipment weighing hundreds of kilograms for thousands of kilometers.
The Heron TP is capable of reaching Iran.
Individual drones are already in service; the Heron TP was used over Gaza during Operation Cast Lead last winter.
The air force expects a squadron of Heron TPs to be formed this year.
Despite its mammoth proportions, its engine is quiet, so it can be used in covert operations.
“The air force has marked another important milestone in the development of UAVs,” OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan said on Sunday, at the Tel Nof base.
Israeli-made drones have come a long way over the past 30 years, “from
the humble beginnings of small UAVs with operational outputs during the
First Lebanon War, to the varied array of hi-tech and multi-operational
UAVs that accompany almost operational aspect of the air force,”
Israel Aerospace Industries described the Heron TP as an all-weather
multi-mission platform that can take off and land automatically.
The UAV comes equipped for satellite communications over an extended range.