The Israeli air force ditched one of its Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned air vehicles into the Mediterranean Sea off the nation's coast on 11 May, after an engine problem was encountered by its operators.

The air force has grounded its remaining Heron (Shoval) fleet until an investigation has been completed.

The UAV was being flown on a routine patrol mission off the coast of central Israel when its operators noticed the engine problem. It was decided to crash-land the large aircraft into the sea in a controlled procedure.

After the aircraft ditched, the air force and navy dispatched search forces to locate the debris.

The Israeli air force is operating two models of the Heron: one for overland intelligence missions; and the other for maritime patrol.

IAI's Heron is a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV with a wingspan of 16.6m (54.4ft) and a take-off weight of 1,250kg (2,750lb). The aircraft can reach an altitude of 30,000ft (9,140m), and has an endurance of up to 40h, depending on the mission and payload configuration being flown.

The type can operate at least five different payloads simultaneously, to provide real-time information over a wide area for an extended period of time.

Source: Flight International