The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron medium altitude long endurance UAV has achieved operational acceptance with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) with formal induction into service occurring 7 March.

In parallel IAI has confirmed that Heron’s used in the war against Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon last year were company owned aircraft.

According to an IAI statement issued 7 March “during the recent conflict in Lebanon, IAI Heron UAVs were successfully operated, utilizing various payloads. The UAVs were jointly operated by the IAF and teams from IAI and proved their operational utility.”

The statement cites IAI president and chief executive officer Itzhak Nissan as saying “the acceptance of IAI's Heron UAV by the IAF is a substantial breakthrough in the IAF's UAV capabilities. These capabilities have already proven themselves in IAF UAV operations by performing long endurance, high altitude, heavy payload and multi-task missions with great reliability. We are pleased to celebrate the Heron's acceptance with the IAF and we will continue our long-term commitment to supply unique products to the IAF and the IDF in the future.”

The IAF order was placed in September 2005 with a value of some $50 million. The UAVs are replacing existing IAI Searcher Mk I and Mk II systems operated by the IAF under service based contracts.