This morning an unmanned aircraft crashed in Israel's central region. The circumstances of the crash are still unknown.
The aircraft in question is the large Heron TP class UAV manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is one of the most advanced UAVs the IAF possesses.
The UAV crashed in a field during a joint IAI and IAF test flight after it deviated from its flight path.
The Heron TP UAV was designed as a multi-mission platform, a sort of “truck” that heavy systems could be installed upon. A huge 1,200 horsepower engine drives this "air truck.”
The size, strength, and systems of the engine are different from anything the air force previously used. The massive engine and the long and wide wings enable the Eitan to soar up to 13 km, and provides it with a nearly invisible aerial duration capability of almost 36 hours.
The length of the UAV’s wings is 26 m—exactly like a Boeing-737 passenger plane. The strength of its engines allows the Eitan to take off with more than four tons loaded upon it, including a payload of 1 ton.
The enormous storage cells in the body of the UAV can store any system that air force mission planners conceive.
IAF UAV’s currently log more flight hours than the air force’s manned aircraft. The air force is not counting, but it seems that UAVs are carrying out about 60% of the IAF’s total flight hours. This is an astonishing number and it seems that it will only increase.
Previously, a senior source in the field told IsraelDefense that by 2030, half of the IAF’s ORBAT will be comprised of unmanned aircraft. Looking at flight hours alone, the UAV’s are already dominating.
In terms of operating an aerial military force, the jump from 40% to 60% flight hours was made in a short time.
During a recent space and aviation conference, Colonel Amir Weiss, head of the IAF’s UAV department said, “UAVs currently operate ten times more than they did a few years ago. For example, about 50% of the operational sorties during operation Cast Lead (2009-2010) were carried out by UAVs."