Murphy's Law: Israeli UAVs For Turkey


December 29, 2007: Although Israel sold Heron UAVs to Turkey, in a deal worth $190 million, back in 2004, the aircraft have not entered service yet. That's because Turkish firms were to supply some of the components, like the cameras, and delivery was scheduled for October 2007. But the Turkish camera suppliers had some problems integrating their equipment with the UAV, delaying service until early 2008. But the Turks are fighting Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq at the moment, and really need those UAVs. So the Israeli manufacturer made an interim deal to supply wholly Israeli Herons, along with support personnel, on a $10 million lease. Because this is a wartime situation, details like the number of Herons supplied.

The Turks were to get a new generation of Heron UAVs, called Shoval. It is is basically a direct competitor to the American Predator A (or MQ-1). The Shoval weighs about the same (1.2 tons), and has the same endurance (40 hours). Shoval has a slightly higher ceiling (30,000, versus 25,000 feet) and software which allows it to automatically take off, carry out a mission, and land automatically. Only the larger, and much more expensive, American Global Hawk can do this. Both Predator and Shoval cost about the same ($5 million), although the Israelis are willing to be flexible on price. The Shoval does have a larger wingspan (51 feet) than the Predator (41 feet) and a payload of about 300 pounds.

The latest version of the Heron UAV, the Heron TP (also known as Eitan) uses a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine to enable the 4.6 ton aircraft to operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator B). The Heron line of UAVs has been around longer than the Predators, and have a comparable track record.




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