Dassault is considering leasing Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP unmanned aircraft systems to answer the urgent operational needs of the French armed forces.

"We have proposed an interim solution consisting of leasing the Heron TP that the Israelis are willing to provide," Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne told the lower house of the French parliament during a recent discussion.

Edelstenne says that under the proposal the IAI-built system would be adapted to meet French requirements. "This solution would be available in about a year. The defence minister is studying the subject."

 © Israel Aerospace Industries

The French army currently operates IAI's Heron 1 UAS, with three systems deployed in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and a fourth used in France. The type - dubbed the Harfang - was delivered through a joint venture between IAI and EADS.

Recently fielded by the Israeli air force as the "Eitan", IAI's new-generation Heron TP has not yet been exported, and any tie-up with Dassault would have to be approved by the Israeli defence ministry.

Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engine, the medium-altitude, long-endurance Heron TP has a maximum take-off weight of over 4,000kg (8,820lb). Capable of carrying large-volume payloads, the aircraft can fly above 45,000ft (13,700m) and has a reported maximum mission endurance of greater than 70h.

The potential new arrangement with France comes as IAI also has moved to offer its Heron-series air vehicles to other European nations in partnership with German firm Rheinmetall Defence Electronics. The companies currently supply Herons for use by the German air force in Afghanistan under Berlin's interim "Saateg" surveillance programme.

Source: Flight International