The Air Force put its new UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to the test last week opposite the coast of Gaza. UAV operators had their first chance to work with the new vehicles, the IAF's most advanced.
The new UAV, dubbed “Eitan” (English name: Heron TP) has a wingspan almost as long as a Boeing 737, can stay in the air for over 36 hours, and is capable of reaching as far as Iran. It officially joined the IAF's fleet in February.
Flying the Eitan opposite Gaza was part of the training given UAV operators, who will soon be using the Eitan regularly. The operators are currently trained in using the Heron 1 (Shoval) UAVs.
Operators will be required to complete another seven flights. Once their training is complete, they will begin conducting missions.
The Eitan is designed for high-altitude missions, and can operate above 40,000 feet. It is the largest UAV in the IDF fleet, and has all-weather capability.
According to a March report in Popular Mechanics, the Eitan can carry a one-ton payload and can reach Iran's nuclear facilities. The publication speculated that Israel intends to use manned and unmanned aircraft together on missions: The drone will provide information while the manned airplanes drop guided munitions.
The Eitan "will likely be used to provide prestrike information on targets, to eavesdrop on electronic communications and to send battle damage assessments back after an attack," the report added. "It will also undoubtably be used to monitor any retaliation for the airstrike—seeking rocket launches and eavesdropping on Iran."