Procurement: Canadian Herons

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August 16, 2008: Canada is buying at least  half a dozen Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can 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. India and European nations are the most likely buyers of the Heron TP, which would be suitable for maritime patrol as well. Thus the Heron TP would be a low cost competitor to the Global Hawk, which has far more range than most nations need for their naval reconnaissance aircraft.

The first Canadian Heron TPs will be delivered in three years, with all the UAVs arriving within six years. Canada is spending about $125 million on this. Meanwhile, Canada is leasing some older (and smaller) Herons for use in Afghanistan. These will enter service early next year.