The crash of the new Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) this morning was caused by human error, according to the preliminary investigation by the Israel Air Force (IAF) and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1). The Heron's ground controllers apparently exceeded the UAV's test flight parameters. The top secret Heron TP, a state-of-the-art UAV costs $10 million, and is one of IAI's flagship product.
The Heron crashed after takeoff from UAV Squadron 210, based at Palmachim. The flight was designed to test the Heron TP's functioning and systems. The Air Force has been operating the Heron TP for two years, and test flights are routinely undertaken.
The Heron crashed near Moshav Yesodot, near Gedera, in the southern Coastal Plain. IDF troops rushed to the scene to secure the remains.
A source told "Globes", "Regrettable breakdowns sometimes occur during test flights. It's worse and more tragic in cases of breakdowns of manned test flights. In this case, there were naturally no casualties, but the incident must still be thoroughly investigated."
Sources said that the Air Force team assembled to investigate the crash would coordinate its work with IAI engineers who developed the Heron TP.
As big as a piloted plane
The Heron TP is already in use with several air forces around the world. The IAF has expanded it procurements of UAVs in the past few years, including the Heron TP, and will begin procurements of the Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) Hermes 900 and other UAVs for tactical missions on the battlefield.
The Heron TP's dimensions are as big as a piloted plane. Its wingspan is 26 meters, its length is 15 meters, and it weighs over a ton, making it the largest UAV is IAF service. It has an endurance of 40 hours, and its sophisticated systems include satellite communications, avionics, and payloads.
The world's professional media showed interest in the Heron TP from the start of its development. "Jane's" said that the secrecy surrounding its development was evidence that it carried munitions for hunt-and-kill missions, or that it was intended for anti-ballistic missile operations. The IAF has never confirmed operations by its UAVs, even as they have become primary reconnaissance and intelligence tools for complex long-range mission over the border.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 29, 2012
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