The combination of a faster unmanned air system with advanced payloads, particularly SAR/GMTI radars, is seen by Israel Aerospace Industries as the main selling point of the company’s recently unveiled Super Heron UAS.
The Super Heron is a larger, faster version of the combat-proven Heron UAS and has a new design, featuring a more streamlined fuselage, a larger engine bay and winglets to improve the platform’s aerodynamic efficiency and speed.
The engine bay of the Super Heron is adaptable to carry two engine types – either the existing Rotax 914 engine or a new heavy fuel engine with fuel injection made by the Italian company DieselJet SRL. The latter is based on an automotive diesel engine made by Fiat which is currently undergoing aviation certification by EASA.
The new engine significantly increases the airspeed of the Super Heron over the current Heron I. According to IAI, it will exceed 150kt (278km/h)
The Super Heron has a maximum take-off weight of 1,450kg (3,200lb) and can carry a payload of 450kg.
IAI sources say that the increased speed and improved carrying capability make the Super Heron the ideal unmanned platform for carrying SAR/GMTI radars. These are entering service in many countries to improve the detection of stationary and moving targets on land and sea.
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) uses high-resolution imaging to produce geometrically accurate surface maps in which the smallest feature size is 0.3m (1ft). This means anything from buildings and roads to fences, radio masts or radar antennas can be detected, identified and accurately located in relation to the surrounding terrain.
Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radar can detect slowly moving surface vehicles, taxiing aircraft, and hovering helicopters. In many instances, these radars can also exploit fine Doppler modulations in the radar return enabling them to identify vehicle types, and even rotating radar antennas.
The speed of the carrying platform, according to IAI, is important first to get to the “area of interest” and then to get the best results from the radar.