The Israel Air Force (IAF) has marked on Sunday (2.10.2011) 40 years since the establishment of its first Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Squadron #200, located at the IAF base in Palmachim.
A ceremony was held in the presence of current squadron members and veterans, including IAF Commanding Officer, MGen. Ido Nehushtan, senior officials from the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), the IMoD R&D branch, and representatives of the Israeli defense companies whose engineering talent and innovative skills have collectively pioneered to where Israeli UAVs are today.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has led the IAF’s UAS development over the past 30 years, since fielding the IAF’s first ever operational UAS, the “Scout” and through today’s “Heron Turbo Prop” (Heron TP) UAS.
The Scout UAV entered IAF operational service in 1981,and excelled in the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee (First Lebanon War) being retired only in 2004.
IAI’s Searcher UAV became operational in 1992 and underwent an upgrade in 1998 with entry of the “Searcher II” that included better engine performance, and advanced navigation and communication systems. In addition to the IAF, Searcher is in service with 10 different customers world wide, including the Spanish Air Force that operates it in Afghanistan.
In 2005, the IAI Heron UAS, named “Shoval”, was inducted into the squadron. IAI maintenance teams support the Shoval UAS and its high operating tempo all year round.
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 thousand feet with the ability to loiter for up to 24 hours.
The Heron UAV can carry multiple payloads and operate them simultaneously when needed: electro-optical payloads, maritime patrol radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), relay equipment, various communication systems and more, according to customer needs.
The Heron UAS 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 UAS: the Heron Turbo Prop (TP) that was inducted to Squadron 210 in February 2010 under the name “Eitan”.
The IAI-designed Heron TP can perform long range missions of over 1,000 KM, and can remain airborne for over 24 hours. The UAV has a powerful turbo-prop engine (1200 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 5 tons and has the ability to carry payloads weighing approximately 1,000 KG. 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 approximately 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.
Itzhak Nissan, President and CEO of IAI, said:” Throughout the years, IAI delivered innovative UAS 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.