Tactical Heron Joins IAI/MALAT’s UAS Stables

Issue: 7 / 2019By SP’s CorrespondentPhoto(s): By IAI

IAI’s MALAT has extended the Heron Family of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), adding a lighter weight variant optimized for tactical operations. The new tactical Heron offers the Heron capabilities customers have already become accustomed to, in terms of size, weight, robustness, and operational flexibility matching tactical operations.

The T-Heron can fly at a maximum speed of 120 kmph, climb to a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet and remain on a mission for 24 hours. With a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kg, less than half the weight of the Heron I, the T-Heron can carry a useful weight of 180 kg, supporting multiple sensors for reconnaissance and intelligence surveillance and ongoing surveillance missions. On each mission, T-Heron can carry few payloads, including radars, EO/IR, SIGINT, COMINT, along with broadband datalinks, operating in line-of-sight and over a satellite terminal, supporting the simultaneous download of information from all payloads. Maintaining a cruising altitude of 21,000 ft, the T-Heron can use long-range EO/IR payloads looking 100 km deep across borders. This capability is unique to the T-Heron of all tactical UAS, providing valuable intelligence while remaining at standoff range from the enemy’s air defense.

The platform features a highly efficient design for tactical ISR missions. The retractable forward landing gear clears the view for the EO/IR and radar sensors, while placements for COMINT/SIGINT antennae are located on the wingtips and booms to minimize obstruction and maximize antennae separation for optimal performance. Wing-mounted pods carry additional electronic sensors or expendable payloads such as markers or lifeboats on search and rescue missions.

The T-Heron uses a 70 per cent downscaled Heron I design. With 10-metre wingspan and low center of gravity placed well within the large, rectangular payload bay, the T-Heron provides a robust, flexible platform carrying internal and external payloads to meet different payload configurations supporting various missions. The wings are reinforced and fitted with hardpoints supporting external carriage. The new variant is designed and built as a certifiable UAS, in compliance with STANAG 4671 standard. Addressing all the Standard’s criteria, T-Heron uses a FAR33 certified Rotax 912iSC aviation engine, and fully redundant safety-critical systems including power distribution, flight control, and communications. The aircraft has an integral ‘pilot window,’ using a tail-mounted panoramic camera and provisions for deicing ensuring flight safety at high altitude and in icing conditions. To enable sharing the airspace with civilian aircraft, T-Heron also carries IFF/TCAS for identification and collision avoidance.

The T-Heron is designed to operate in extreme environmental conditions, including high altitude, a temperature range of -40 to +55°C, crosswinds of 20 knots, and rain flow of 50mm per hour.

IAI’s standard iUCS mission control systems are used to conduct the mission from the ground. The iUCS supports all mission phases, platform, and payloads. The modular iUCS supports different configurations for tactical deployment in armored vehicles or shelters, maritime, and airborne platforms. The system is designed to operate with a single crewmember or stack several iUCS to support larger crews on more complex missions. The T-Heron’s payloads can also be controlled from portable terminals, using the two-way remote terminal (RVT).

Built to operate from short, unpaved surfaces, T-Heron relies on integral brakes, power, and cooling, and is independent of specialized ground support equipment such as arresting cable, power and cooling carts. The system is stored and transported in two standard 20-foot ISO air-deployable containers, requiring two vehicles for field operation. On tactical deployment, the system can minimize the support crew, utilizing the Heron family ‘Long Runner’ remote operation feature, forward-deployed T-Heron can be controlled remotely from a control center, performing all functions, including takeoff, landing, and taxing without relying on local support teams. IAI offers customers a full logistics package, providing flight line, intermediate and depot level (D level) maintenance and support, ensuring complete independence.

The T-Heron joins the successful, combat-proven Heron Family, the leader of IAI MALAT’s Unmanned Aerial Systems stables. Boasting more than 17,00,000 operational flight hours in the service of 50 countries worldwide, IAI’s Heron Family now includes four variants. These variants perform missions spanning 24 hours and more, carry payloads of 180 kg to 1 tonne, support Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) operations in strategic, operational, tactical missions, as well as Homeland Security (HLS), Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Patrol, and Anti-Submarine (MP/AS) missions.