March 24, 2012: Israel has decided to keep its three Seascan naval patrol aircraft in service. Four years ago Israel announced that the manned Seascan aircraft would be phased out and replaced by UAVs. Instead, the Seascans are being refurbished and kept in service because, two years ago, Israel discovered $100 billion worth of natural gas off shore, near the Lebanese border.
Since Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic relations, and the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization constantly calls for war with Israel, there is a greater need for offshore security. Worse yet, Turkey has threatened to intervene on Lebanon's side in the boundary dispute. This dispute has been brewing for some time. Eight years ago Israel discovered about $20 billion worth of natural gas off the coast. When the larger field hits peak production by the end of the decade Israel will no longer have to import $4 billion of fuel a year.
For over 30 years the Seascan aircraft have been Israel's main maritime patrol aircraft. These are modified versions of the Israeli- made Westwind executive jet. This ten ton aircraft has a seven man crew, is equipped with search radar, and can carry missiles. The Seascan has an endurance of six hours. The refurbishment will repair or replace worn structural elements and upgrade the electronics.
Israel is still adding Heron UAVs to its maritime patrol force. The 1.1 ton Heron can stay in the air for 30 hours or more and has a payload of 227 kg (500 pounds). This will include search radar for maritime patrol. Using the Heron for maritime is a lot cheaper than the Seascan, but for the next five years or so, Israel will need all the maritime patrol capability it can muster. It also appears that the Heron cannot carry as capable a radar as Seascan.