High-Tech Israeli Drone Crashes On Test Flight

By Abraham Rabinovich
Washington Times

A long-range Israeli drone capable of surveillance and bombing missions over Iran crashed Sunday near an Israeli air base during a test flight.

The Heron TP unmanned aircraft can stay aloft for 40 hours and has a range of 4,600 miles, theIsraeli air force said. The distance between Iranand Israel is about 1,000 miles.

Gen. Ido Nehushtan, commander of the Israeli air force, said new technology on the drone was being tested when the aircraft crashed into an orchard near the Tel Nof air base outside Rehovot.

A preliminary investigation indicated that human error and a technical malfunction contributed to the accident, the air force said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

According to military sources, a wing that fell off the drone had been fitted with a highly advanced navigational device that might have interfered with the aircraft’s other flight systems.

The Israeli military’s most advanced drone, the Heron TP has a wingspan of 85 feet, nearly that of a Boeing 737, and a payload capacity of 2,200 pounds.

The drone has platforms for surveillance equipment and for firing rockets, and can be used in a variety of mission such as aerial refueling, jamming communications and relaying ground control in Israel to manned aircraft over a distant target.

Israeli officials reportedly have been considering a military strike on Iranto prevent the Islamic republic from making an atomic weapon, and the Heron TP, which soars as high as 40,000 feet, would likely play a key role in an attack.

According to press accounts, the drone was used in a 2009 airstrike in Sudan against a Gaza-bound convoy carrying Iranian arms destined for the Hamas militant group.