PARIS AIR SHOW: Heron sees frontline El Salvador anti-drugs fight

Tel Aviv
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An Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned air vehicle, on static display here this week, is being evaluated for possible permanent deployment in El Salvador, as part of the country's joint war with the USA against drugs traffickers.

The medium-altitude Heron, with its endurance of over 40h, service ceiling of 30,000ft (9,150m) and 250kg (550lb) payload capacity, was supplied to US forces in El Salvador by IAI's US subsidiary Stark Aviation. Part of the war on drugs, the "Proycto Monitoreo" project's use of the UAV in an anti-drugs surveillance capacity is a first.

"The UAV with its electro-optical payload enables us to cover large areas very efficiently," says US Southern Command deputy commander Lt Gen Glenn Spears.

Separately, France has expressed an intention to purchase at least one additional Heron air vehicle for use in Afghanistan, where its armed forces are already operating two examples.

Dubbed the SIDM, the UAV has a 20h endurance for surveillance missions. Supplied by prime contractor EADS and partner IAI, the platform carries electro-optical sensors, a laser designator and ground moving target indication radar.

EADS says the French air force accumulated 200h of flight training for SIDM operators and ground staff at Mont-de-Marsan air base before the Afghan deployment.

The Heron, which has a 16.6m (54.4ft) wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 1,200kg, is also in use in Afghanistan by the Canadian military.