Upgraded Heron given longer legs
As well as payload, ceiling and speed enhancements, the Heron MK II brings a new operational concept developed by IAI that allows it to operate far from the ground station and refuel in remote areas.
The Heron MK II is powered by a new Rotax 915 IF engine, which has been adapted specifically by Rotax to the operational needs of the new UAV, according to Avi Bleser, VP marketing & sales of IAI's military aircraft group.
‘This upgraded engine is used only by us. This engine allows the Heron MK II to reach a ceiling of 35,000 feet and a max speed of 140 knots,’ Bleser said.
Bleser added that the MK II has a wider and longer fuselage than the Heron 1, allowing the installation of additional payloads. Indeed, the maximum take-off weight is increased to 1350 kg while the maximum payload weight is 470 kg.
‘The new design, and especially the new improved engine gives the MK II a climb rate that is 50 % greater than the Heron 1 is capable of,' he said, adding that the MK II has an endurance of 45 hours.
Bleser highlighted the capability of the Heron MK II to ‘fly the mission’ meaning that the platform fits itself to the mission profile, adding that to achieve that they ‘installed a flight control computer and a separate dedicated mission computer’.
The new version is equipped with a line-of-sight communications system and with a satellite communication system.
‘The improved communications links enable the MK II to use a large number of payloads in parallel and transmit the data to the different customers,’ Bleser added.
The MK II is offered with a variety of dedicated payloads – for ground, air and maritime missions including anti-submarine duties.
According to IAI, the Heron MK II is capable of landing and taking off in remote areas using the built-in advanced satellite communications system. This capability is essential when the UAV needs to be operated continuously without going back to its home base.
Under this concept, the Heron MK II can automatically land in remote runways located thousands of kilometres away, where it is serviced by a small team and basic fuelling infrastructure, before it takes off for an additional mission.
The company says that the new capability also leads to substantial savings in command stations and flying staff resources since it eliminates the need to return to the original take-off point for refuelling, thus saving on flight time and fuel. This therefore increases the operational availability in the mission area and provides several options for routine and emergency landing.
‘With the new capability, Heron MK II will be used in even more complicated and challenging missions,’ Bleser said.
The new capability was developed based on operational demands that are the result of a long series of tests performed by the flight test squadron of the Israeli Air Force (IAF).
Bleser confirmed that negotiations with some potential customers were close to reaching the contract signing stage.
While he refrained from specifying the IAF as one of the potential customers, there are indications that the service will add the new version to its fleet of UAVs that are currently performing 80% of the total flight hours of the force.
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