The Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic (Ministerstvo obrany Ceske republiky, MOCR) is to buy three Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of the country’s wider Concept of Capability Construction of the Army of the Czech Republic plan. The defense news and analysis company Janes reported that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the plan on 8 August, saying that negotiations for the procurement are to begin with the Israeli government shortly as it plans to acquire equipment seen “as crucial in conducting aerial reconnaissance and performing other tasks for direct combat support and protection of Czech army units”.
The IAI Heron (Machatz-1) is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by the Malat (UAV) division of Israel Aerospace Industries. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) operations of up to 52 hours’ duration at up to 10.5 km (35,000 ft). It has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight, but the effective operational maximal flight duration is less, according to payload and flight profile. The Heron navigates using an internal GPS navigation device, and either a pre-programmed flight profile (in which case the system is fully autonomous from takeoff to landing), manual override from a ground control station, or a combination of both.
The IAI Heron can autonomously return to base and land in case of lost communication with the ground station. The system has fully automatic launch and recovery (ALR) and all-weather capabilities. The Heron can carry an array of sensors, including thermographic camera (infrared) and visible-light airborne ground surveillance, intelligence systems (COMINT and ELINT) and various radar systems, totaling up to 250 kg (550 lb). The Heron is also capable of target acquisition and artillery adjustment. The payload sensors communicate with the ground control station in real time, using either direct line of sight data link, or via an airborne/satellite relay.
The IAI Heron’s multi-mission system utilizes up to six diverse mission payloads simultaneously allowing complex intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions over any terrain, including forests, jungles or swamps, at sea or over urban areas. Heron’s sensors feed collected ISTAR data to ground segment and tactical-level end users in real time, through direct line-of-sight or via satellite communications. This essentially enables the operational range of the Heron to be limited only by fuel availability, with missions ranging over 1,000 km from its operating base.