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India buys 4 Heron MK II drones for surveillance in Ladakh

CM 29/09/2021

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As tension continues to simmer between India and China over Ladakh, New Dehli will be buying four Heron MK II from Israel Aerospace Industries and will deploy them to the area for surveillance purposes.
The agreement signed between New Dehli and IAI was signed in mid-January but the arrival of the UAVs was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Times of India, the first two UAVs will arrive in India in two to three months while the other two will arrive by the end of the year.
The deal, worth some $200 USD million, was at first set to be a three-year lease agreement but New Delhi decided to purchase the platforms as part of the country’s plans to upgrade the military amid the ongoing border conflict with China.

Indian media reported that the Indian Air Force’s plan, dubbed “Project Cheetah” will see 90 Heron drones flying with the Indian Air Force, Indian Army, and Indian Navy be upgraded with laser-guided bombs, air-to-ground and air-launched anti-tank guided missiles.
The Indian Air Force already operates more than 180 Israeli-made UAVs, including 108 IAI-made Searchers and 68 unarmed Heron 1s for surveillance and intelligence gathering as well as a fleet of IAI-produced Harpy UAVs, which carry a high-explosive warhead and self-destructs to take out targets such as radar stations.

Israeli coronavirus aid being prepared to be loaded onto the Indian Air Force cargo plane (credit: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS)Israeli coronavirus aid being prepared to be loaded onto the Indian Air Force cargo plane (credit: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS)

“The deal is a testament to our customers’ strong satisfaction with the Heron UAVs, including their operational and technical performance. Our customers repeatedly choose the Heron for its broad range of intelligence collection missions in different ground and weather settings,” said IAI President and CEO, Boaz Levy said in January at the time of the signing.
Using the most advanced technologies developed by IAI to date, the HERON MK II is a strategic and versatile aircraft capable of carrying diverse payloads. Fitted with a Rotax 915 iS engine, the HERON MK II can reach an altitude of 35,000 feet, a maximum speed of 140 knots, and can remain in the air for 45 consecutive hours. 
The HERON MK II is an updated model of the HERON UAV, which is used by the Israeli Air Force and is operational with over 20 other organizations around the world. 
With larger and improved sensors, the standout feature of the Heron MK II is its ability to perform Standoff Capability, gathering intelligence from tens of kilometers away from enemy fire and without crossing borders.
The UAV also has an onboard server, providing operators to access large amounts of raw or processed sensor data stored on the flight. The maximum takeoff weight for the Heron MK II is 1350kg with a payload weight of 470kg and has a maximum speed of 140knots compared to the 120knots of the Heron MK I.
The Heron MK I has a maximum mission endurance of over 24 hours.  Equipped with satellite data link and electro-optical infrared sensors, the Heron 1 is able to not only provide reconnaissance to ground forces in combat situations, assist in convoying and patrolling, create movement profiles and long-term monitoring, but it is able to track down explosives from the air.
Due to improved manufacturing technologies, the HERON MK II has a wider and stronger body structure, strong enough to carry Sonobuoy anti-submarine monitoring systems as well as a magnetometer to identify targets underwater.
In addition to wide-band communication systems allowing intelligence to be shared simultaneously, it also has an improved engine and avionics, a stronger propulsion system which allows for a climb rate of 550 knots (compared to the 140 knots of the older model), new configurations, new long-range observation sensors, and radars and can carry a wide range of additional payloads for the various configurations such as ELINT, COMINT, and more.
The UAV has also been fitted with the most advanced automation systems, allowing operators to shut down the propulsion system and restart it using satellite communications as well as refuel it in any location where there is a runway.
Israel is considered a leading exporter of drones and IAI has over 50 operational customers around the globe, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea.


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