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).
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.
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.