|Israel Sells Heron UAVs to India, Australia
Posted 11-Nov-2005 03:54
IAI Heron UAVPakistan's Daily Times reports that India is set to purchase some 50 Heron MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAVs from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in a deal worth $220 million. They will reportedly be put to use carrying out reconnaissance missions on India's mountainous borders with China and Pakistan.
India was said to have been close to sealing the deal in 2004, but it was postponed due to the change in governments in New Delhi.
The Heron's performance during the December 2004 tsunami apparently clinched the India deal, and they are not alone in being impressed by the Heron's capabilities. Turkey, Israel, and Australia have also ordered Heron UAVs recently.
The Daily Times noted that India already has some 12 Heron drones, and reminds readers that they played a crucial part in search and rescue operations following the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. IAI Searcher and Heron UAVs were used to locate trapped survivors and missing bodies near the Andaman and Nicobar islands, relaying clear photographs while in flight and allowing immediate response as soon as a survivor or victims were identified on screen via the live feed.
The Heron UAV is capable of flying for up to 52 hours at a time at altitudes exceeding 32,000 feet. It has a maximum range of about 3,300 kilometersm and can carry a maximum payload weighing 250 kg/ 550 lbs. It is built to carry multiple payloads at a time for a variety of missions, including electro-optical and thermal surveillance equipment, SAR radars for ground surveillance, maritime patrol radars and sensors, signals and other intelligence collection antennas and equipment, laser designators, and even radio relays.
In analyzing the Heron sale, Stratfor notes that:
"The purchase will allow India to better protect its long borders and to pave the way for the planned 2007 acquisition of Israeli Phalcon radar -- all while seeking to convince Pakistan that the security balance between the two countries will not shift further in New Delhi's favor. Pakistan, however, is unlikely to be placated, and will endeavor to counter the Indian acquisition.... Despite the negative resonance this deal will have in Islamabad, the Herons will strengthen New Delhi's ability to deny access to jihadists crossing into India from Pakistan by enhancing India's border surveillance capabilities. "
The Heron UAV is also popular beyond India. An IAI-EADS derivative named Eagle was selected by the French Air Force to provide strategic and theater reconnaissance, intelligence collection and communications support. It is also expected to operate in the maritime surveillance role.
Beyond Europe, DID has covered Turkey's $150 million contract for 30 Heron UAV systems in September, and also noted Israel's supplementary $50 million purchase of Heron UAVs to patrol the Gaza Strip in the wake of its recent pullout.
In addition, Ha'aretz Daily's coverage notes that the Australian army recently announced that it would purchase 18 Heron drones from IAI, and that the drones would be put to use in Iraq. With IAI Herons at the high end and Elbit Systems Skylark mini-UAVs for its troops, the Australians will be the best equipped UAV force in Iraq other than the United States.
The Pakistani Daily Times newspaper also notes its sources claim that the Indian Army is also making inquiries about the Hunter UAV, a smaller IAI aircraft that is also in service with the US Army. RQ-5A Hunter UAVs have logged substantial flight time in Iraq, and demonstrated their ability to drop small precision munitions like the Viper Strike.