|First flight||ca. 2004|
|Developed from||IAI Heron|
The IAI Eitan (איתן – "Steadfast"), also known as Heron TP, is a reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed in Israel in the early 21st century by the Malat division of Israel Aerospace Industries. The aircraft is a newer version of the IAI Heron.
A medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAV, the Eitan can operate at altitudes above commercial air traffic and features all-weather capability, de-icing systems, automatic takeoff and landing (ATOL) systems, and triple-redundant avionics. It is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with wings of high aspect ratio. Booms extend rearward from the wings and carry twin tails that are joined by a common horizontal stabiliser. The main units of the tricycle undercarriage retract into the tail booms, and the nosewheel retracts into the fuselage. A single turboprop engine is mounted in the rear fuselage, driving a pusher propeller. Construction throughout is of composite materials.
In April 2004, the Israeli Air Force magazine announced the existence of the programme and reported that two prototypes were already flying. In March the following year, US company Aurora Flight Sciences announced a joint venture to market the aircraft under the name Orion. Aurora hoped to have a machine flying during 2007, but by the middle of that year, the company had not released anything further about the project. Meanwhile reports emerged of a "first flight" for the Eitan in Israel on 15 July 2006, despite the previous reports that the aircraft had already been flying two years previously. In late January 2007, Yedioth Ahronoth reported yet another seemingly contradictory announcement, which indicated that the maiden flight was to take place in the coming days.
The Eitan was publicly unveiled at a media event at Tel Nof Airbase on 8 October 2007. The sensors fitted on this occasion included a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mounted in a pod on the aircraft's belly, a multi-sensor payload carried under its nose, and two conformal signals intelligence (SIGINT) arrays. Additional sensors may be carried at the ends of the tail booms. Analysis of the configuration presented to the media suggests an aircraft intended for deep penetration roles and on-board SIGINT processing capability. However, at the media event an IAF official stated that IAI and the IAF had tested "all kinds of payloads, in all kinds of configuration schemes." Apart from its intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role, the Eitan may also be used for aerial refuelling, and armed roles including missile defence and long-range strategic strike.
In February 2010 the Israeli Air Force unveiled its new fleet of Eitans. The first unit to operate the type, 210 Squadron, was inaugurated at Tel Nof in December 2010. In January 2012, an Eitan drone crashed near Hafetz Haim during tests of new payloads; no injuries were reported.
- Germany - In 2010 IAI offered the Eitan, under a teaming agreement with Rheinmetall, in pursuit of the German Air Force's long-term "Saateg" MALE UAV requirement. On 21 May 2014, IAI signed a deal with Airbus to team up on a bid for a bridging contract to supply the German armed forces with the Heron TP from 2015 until 2020. A current contract between the companies to supply Germany with the Heron is set to expire by 2015. Airbus said the German government would have the choice of either a purchase option or a lease for the system.
- France - In 2011 France selected the IAI Eitan for the French military. The deal was cancelled later in November 2011 by the French senate with the funds being allocated to a joint Franco-British MALE UAV design.
- United Kingdom - Britain's Royal Air Force considering purchase of IAI Eitan UAVs.
Data from IAI website
- Crew: none
- Capacity: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) payload
- Max takeoff weight: 4,650 kg (10,250 lb)
- Length: 13 m (43 ft in)
- Wingspan: 26 m (86 ft in)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67A, 900 kW (1,200 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 370+ km/h ( mph)
- Range: 7,400+ km (4,600+ miles)
- Endurance: 70+ hours
- Service ceiling: 14,000+ m (45,000+ ft)
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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