30 Jan 12. The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) Eitan-type Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Heron TP had crashed during a routine experimental test flight with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) near the Tel Nof Air Force Base in central Israel. An army spokeswoman said: “An Eytan crashed by accident into a field in Israel during a test being carried out by the army and Israel Aerospace Industries. There were no injuries.” Following take-off from UAV Squadron 210 based at Palmachim, the drone apparently crashed after one of its wings fell off, which was carrying a highly-advanced navigation device that was being tested. Preliminary investigation by the Air Force has suggested that the UAV exceeded its flight restrictions and the incident could be the result of both a human error and a technical malfunction. Developed by IAI, the all-weather fully-automatic UAV Eitan has a 26m long wingspan with a payload of about 1t and is capable of staying airborne for up to 45 hours. The drone is equipped with radar, cameras and high-tech electronic equipment including mapping devices to conduct long-endurance, high-altitude electronic surveillance missions and is also capable of launching missiles. The Heron TP can also jam enemy communications and connect ground control and manned air force planes and can also be used for long-distance surveillance missions in Sudan and Iran. The IAF established a new UAV squadron consisting of Heron 1 and Hermes 900 UAVs in 2011 and has been training pilots in operation of the drone as well as writing the operational doctrine. The squadron was scheduled to be declared operational soon but the crash could further delay the move. Israel has increased the use of its drones over the past few years in areas including the Gaza Strip, along the Egyptian border and southern Lebanon to protect natural gas installations. (Source: airforcetechnology.com)
25 Jan 12. The U.S. Air Force has decided to scrap its Northrop Grumman Corp high-altitude unmanned surveillance plane program and instead extend the life of its U-2 aircraft into the 2020s, according to a government official and a defense analyst. Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said the Air Force decision was based on the cost of the Global Hawk unmanned planes, and that the service would investigate using a marine version with different sensors that Northrop is developing for the Navy. The Northrop drone is one of dozens of weapons programs that face cancellation or cutbacks in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget and five-year plan, which begins to implement $487bn in spending cuts over the next decade. A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the Air Force’s Block 30 variant of the unmanned plane was being terminated in the budget request that will be sent to Congress in February. Lawmakers have the final say over the Pentagon’s budget, and have reversed other program cancellations in the past. An Air Force spokeswoman declined to comment.
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told Reuters earlier this month that the service’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 would include terminations of some programs. He declined comment at the time about the Global Hawk program, saying the service would likely “end up doing what gives us the best capability for the least cost.”
The remotely piloted Global Hawk surveillance planes fly at altitudes above 60,000 feet and can remain in the air for over 24 hours. The Block 30 airframes sell for roughly $30m apiece, not including their payloads. Raytheon Co’s optical, infrared and radar sensors let the aircraft scan large swaths of terrain and transmit images in near real-time. The Global Hawk was due to replace the Cold War-vintage U-2 spy plane in 2015, but those planes, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, would now remain in service until around 2023, the U.S. official said. The planes have been used over Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya. The