The first Heron drone was developed in 1994 by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of 52 hours of flight, at up to 10.5 KM. The Heron TP was developed based on the Heron as an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. Both have been weaponized and were widely used for attacks.
The Heron-1 has been used by Germany, Canada and Australia in Afghanistan and by Germany in Mali.Israel DefenseAirbus : German Bunderswehr renews Heron 1 contract A contract with Germany to lease Heron-TP drones, with weaponizing capabilities, raised political controversy in Germany. in 2022 the Defense Committee of the Bundestag gave the green light to purchase 140 Heron TP drones. Germany plans to use 60 of them for training and 80 for operational use. Total amount of the deal is $166m. The drones will be delivered within two years.I24 : Germany Heron TP deal. The German parlament decided to arm the Heron TP drones.Sueddeutsche : Arming the Heron TP
In 2020 it was reported that India will arm Heron UAVs with missiles and bombs.News 18 : India arms Heron TPs
Variations: Heron-1, Super Heron, Harfang/Eagle (France), Heron-TP (Eitan), Heron MK-II.
The New Heron TP, apart from its intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role, can also be armed for defense and long-range strategic strikes.Drone Wars UK : Report. Since it became operational in 2010 it was used widely in surveillance and attacking operations in Gaza, the West Bank and other locations. The Heron TP has a wing span of 26m and a payload of over 1000kg; it can remain airborne for close to 40 hours and cover a distance of up to 7,500km. It was purchased by Germany, India, Spain and France.
Use by Israeli forces:
The Heron is today one of the most used unmanned vehicles of the Israeli Air Force and used regularly in both Gaza and Lebanon. Introduced to the Israeli Air Force in 2001, it took part in many military operations.
After Operation “Cast Lead” in late 2008 and early 2009, an investigation of HRW concluded that dozens of civilians were killed with missiles launched from drones.HRW : Israeli drones launched missiles
A CONFIDENTIAL REPORT by Israeli military police investigators seen by “The Intercept” exposed how an airstrike in which four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014 were killed by missiles launched from an armed drone, being a Heron or a Hermes drone.The Intercept : Israeli Drone Strikes
Heron TP drones have been used in Gaza. The Heron TP was used during Operation “Protective Edge”, during which 37% of fatalities were attributed to drone attacks, according to an estimate by the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.Mezan In Media ei : Why has Israel censored reporting on drones The Heron TP Eitan drone was also used during Israel’s Operation “Cast Lead”.19fortyfive : Israel’s Heron TP Armed Drones Are Something Special
Heron drones were also used during operation “Guardian of the Walls” in 2021.Maarachot : Israeli operational drones
In 2022 the Israeli Army admitted the usage of armed drones (among them Heron TP drones) in hundreds of attacks and bombings in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Sudan.ynet : Israeli drones attack haaretz : Israel admits usage of attacking dronesץ
Israeli military officials have asserted that its arsenal of armed and surveillance drones played outsized roles during the the attack of the Israeli army on Gaza in August 2022. The Israeli army said that UAVs carried out more than “2,000 hours of flight time in some 100 sorties during the 66-hour attack, dubbed Operation “Breaking Dawn”.Times of Israel : Armed drones gave IDF ‘surgical’ precision during recent Gaza fighting, officers say While the Heron TP was not named directly, the advanced lethal UAV likely played a significant role in this operation.