Among the debutantes here at the 2012 Singapore Airshow is the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s latest UAV, the Heron 1 from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Singapore’s armed forces have acquired a number of Heron 1s under their “third-generation transformation” program, and they are replacing IAI Searchers with the UAV Command. Deliveries began last year. The UAVs are equipped with IAI’s TAMAM MOSP (multi-mission optronic stabilized payload) and offer a significant improvement in sensor capability, endurance and autonomous operation. The Heron can carry multiple payloads, although only MOSP has been selected so far for the Singaporean aircraft.
While it may be the public debut for the Heron in RSAF colors, the type is no stranger to Singapore skies. At the 2004 and 2006 shows IAI flew a Heron as part of the daily flying display, the first time that a large UAV made such an appearance.
As well as being flown by the Israel Defense Force as the Shoval, Herons have been acquired by a number of nations, including Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, France (as the EADS Harfang), India, El Salvador, Spain and Turkey. Herons have also been leased by Australian, Canadian and German governments for service in Afghanistan, and a number of other nations are reportedly interested in leasing or purchasing the type, including Angola. The Heron is quite likely to figure in an ongoing cooperation with Russia, which has already seen the IAI Searcher II put into service.
Most recently a Heron was demonstrated to the European Union’s Frontex agency. This organization coordinates EU member operations in border security. For the demonstration a Heron 1 was flown with a number of payloads, including MOSP and maritime radar, from the Greek airfield at Preveza/Aktion. Observers came from various EU border police and coast guards.