Dassault is proposing to support the French Ministry of Defense Intelligence gathering operations with Heron TP Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to be leased from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Dassault considers the Israeli UAV as suitable to answer the urgent operational requirements of the French armed forces. With a maximum take-off weight of over 4,000kg (8,820lb), Heron TP is capable of carrying large-volume multiple payloads, fly at an altitude above 45,000ft (13,700m) and sustain missions spanning over several days without landing.
Dassault and IAI have entered a teaming agreement in 2008 along with Thales and Indra, to jointly offer the Heron TP for strategic intelligence gathering services in France and Spain. IAI has also embarked on a similar cooperation with the German Rheinmetall defense company, offering t Heron TP for a similar role in Germany. In May 2008 the team submitted proposals to the French and Spanish ministries of defense, addressing the two countries’ MALE UAV requirements, offering operational availability of the aircraft by the end of 2012.
According to Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne speaking to the lower house of the French parliament, Dassault has already proposed he Heron TP to the Ministry of Defense, acknowledging the original schedule proposed in 2012 is still in effect. The French army currently operates IAI’s Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV delivered under cooperation between IAI and EADS, with a payload capacity of about a third of the weight carried by the Heron TP. IAI and Dassault have entered the current cooperation after EADS decided to embark on its ambitious Talarion program.
Unlike Talarion that is still in development and has not flown yet, IAI’s Heron TP flew for the first time in 2006 and is already operational with the Israel Air Force since early 2010.