Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has revealed details of a new tactical derivative of its medium-altitude, long-endurance family of unmanned aerial vehicles, the T-Heron.
A smaller version of the established Heron TP and Heron-1 systems, the new UAV will have similar capabilities to the larger variants but scaled down to be able to be used by ground units in more expeditionary and tactical roles.
The company told AIN that T-Heron fills an identified gap in the company’s portfolio, namely a higher end tactical system that is smaller than the Heron-TP and Heron-1, but more capable than IAI’s family of BirdEye small and tactical systems.
“The idea is to take the multi-mission capability and know-how of the Heron family and add it to a smaller platform,” explained Dan Bichman, head of UAV marketing. “We identified over the past few years a gap, and some customers are very interested in this.”
Some 30 percent smaller than the previous model, it has an endurance of 24 hours, a range of 250 km line-of-sight or 500 km using satellite communications (satcom), a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet, and can reach speeds of 120 knots.
A maximum takeoff weight of 600 kg and payload capacity of 180 kg, meanwhile, allow for the UAV to carry up to four sensors at once, which can include radar, electro-optical/infrared, and satcom as options, but the company declined to comment on whether warming the UAV is in the development plan.
It will use the same automatic takeoff and landing capability of the larger systems, but will additionally be able to deploy from unprepared runways, so will not have to rely on being operated from airfields and can instead be forward deployed as required. The UAV is a land-deployed system, but the radar being offered has a maritime mode, so it can operate in support of a variety of different mission sets, such as coastal surveillance, IAI said.
The engine meanwhile is the Rotax 912, a smaller derivative of the 914 variant used in the Heron 1.
Furthermore, the T-Heron can be operated from the company’s unified control station that the other models can also be controlled from, a system that can be based in a container or integrated into a vessel if required.
IAI has been working on the UAV for a number of years, and test flights of a prototype are currently underway, ahead of customer demonstrations that are expected to happen in a “matter of months."
The company is in discussions with a mix of current operators of other Heron UAVs as well as potential new customers for the family, IAI said, with negotiations underway at the moment. Serial production will begin once a customer commits to an acquisition, and delivery could take place a year or so after that, the company representative said.
IAI will officially introduce the system to the market during this month's Paris air show.