Israel Aerospace Industries is conducting a series of operational demonstrations where potential customers are evaluating the Heron 1 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV operated in maritime surveillance missions. In a recent test conducted in El-Salvador, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Salvadoran military and civil aviation authorities conducted a month-long evaluation of the Heron, as part of ‘Operation Monitoreo’, assessing the suitability of unmanned aircraft for counter drug missions in the Pacific, Caribbean, Central and South America. Under a similar initiative that took place a few weeks ago, IAI held a joint demonstration for the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Spanish Air Force (SAF), demonstrating the maritime Heron Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the Spanish Canary Islands. Yair Arbel, Chief of Flight Operations in MALAT, noted: “The demonstration took place partially under unfavorable weather conditions, with heavy cloud cover, pouring rain, strong winds and State 5 Seagoing. We detected small targets, as requested by Guardia Civil, in the designated area”.
The Spanish company reported the locations in real time to the Guardia Civil headquarters in Madrid, using systems which successfully interfaced with the IAI/MALAT Heron control station. The early detection of boats and vessels, some of them very small, carrying smuggled goods or illegal immigrants, is an important need for European Union countries. The Heron demonstrated how an unmanned platform can perform over extended mission duration, for up to 20 hours without the need for aerial refueling when configured for counter illicit trafficking detection missions. Earlier, in 2008 IAI performed a similar demonstration in Australia, where the Heron UAV was operated in support of customs patrols, evaluating its capability to control the northern coast.
Israel expects to begin flying maritime patrol sorties over the Mediterranean Sea with the UAV by mid-2009, gradually replacing its IAI Westwind 1124 business jet-based Seascans.