15 October, 2008, Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) delivered the first of its Heron drones to Canadian Forces, as part of a $95 million contract. Management, training, and in-theatre maintenance will be the responsibility of MacDonald Dettwiler.
This follows previous collaboration between IAI and MDA, who tested Heron drones earlier at the Suffield UAV centre CCUVS.
In information released on 2008, MDA claimed that the Heron flight carried out that day was the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight in Alberta. (This seems improbable, and may depend on definitions, because there have been cruise missile flights, which are arguably UAV’s, and lots of remotely controlled flights of smaller aircraft).
IAI toured Canadian Forces Defence Attache through their facilities. Col. Georgie Elms is Hebrew speaking and has served in peacekeeping in Palestine/Israel, and in Kabul, Afghanistan. Elms is looking for consulting contracts, presumably after his CF contract is up.
Herons were also delivered to the Israeli Air Force in March, 2008. They are capable of flying at 30,000 feet, are relatively quiet, and can stay in the air for 40 hours. Herons have also been sold to Turkey, as part of a joint venture with Israeli company Elbit systems (vendors of the Hermes drone). These were being delivered in 2007. The Herons will carry a varying payload of surveillance equipment, which may include laser designators, used for marking targets for other weapons systems. Turkish Forum reports that the Herons were being used by the Turkish military in their conflict with Kurdish insurgents. (ed: PKK?) Turkish Daily News reported that the sale of Israeli drones to Turkey caused problems for the US, since US contractors were excluded from the bidding for technical reasons. An unstated implication was that the bidding process was intentionally unfair, and related to aspects of the close relationship between Turkey and Israel.
Israel has sold UAV’s to South Korea.
Israel has sold Searcher UAV’s to India. Other customers include Chile, Singapore, and the US. An Israeli Military Innovation: UAV, Joint Force Quarterly, 2002, by Ralph Sanders, is a good overview of the development of the Israeli UAV industry.