Turkey has signed a more than $180 million contract with an Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems joint venture for the delivery of 10 Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle systems from late this year.

Signed on 18 April, the deal marks a successful conclusion to a joint campaign forced on the firms by the Israeli defence ministry, which opposed their initial submission of rival proposals for the Turkish requirement. The IAI/Elbit solution was selected in preference to the Predator UAV offered by the USA's General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

The Israeli companies will supply the Heron systems over the next two to three years, with IAI to produce the air vehicles and Elbit to supply ground control stations. Additional support will be provided by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and local payload supplier Aselsan, with Turkish industry to produce 30% of the total system.

The Heron platform is capable of providing reconnaissance from an altitude above 25,000ft (7,600m), with an endurance lasting more than 24h. The design also features automatic take-off and landing and integrated mission planning capabilities. Turkey's air vehicles will be powered by the baseline 100hp (75kW) Rotax gasoline engine, with Ankara having rejected an offer to use an alternative 180hp diesel powerplant. Turkey plans to design, manufacture and flight test a new nationally developed UAV by 2010 under a separate TAI-led programme worth $65 million.

Source: Flight International