Last updated at 4:08 AM on 31st January 2012
A long-range drone capable of surveillance and bombing missions over Iran crashed near an Israeli air base during a test flight on Sunday.
The Heron TP unmanned aircraft, which has a massive wingspan nearly that of a Boeing 737, can stay aloft for 40 hours and has a range of 4,600 miles, the Israeli air force said.
According to initial findings, the crash occurred after the UAV performed a maneuver beyond its capabilities, causing one of its wings to break off.
Aircraft down: The Heron TP, Israel's most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, crashed on Sunday when its wing broke off during a test flight
Bombing capabilities: The unmanned aircraft, which has a massive wingspan nearly that of a Boeing 737, can stay aloft for 40 hours
Investigation: Authorities examine the crash site, near an orchard close to an Israeli air base
The Israel Air Force opened an investigation.
General Ido Nehushtan, commander of the Israeli air force, said new technology on the drone was being tested when the aircraft crashed into an orchard near the Tel Nof air base outside Rehovot.
A preliminary investigation indicated that human error and a technical malfunction contributed to the accident, the air force said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
The Israeli military’s most advanced drone has a wingspan of 85 feet, nearly that of a Boeing 737, and a payload capacity of 2,200 pounds. It was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries.
Known as the Eitan in Israel, the drone has platforms for surveillance equipment and for firing rockets, and can be used in a variety of mission such as aerial refueling, jamming communications and relaying ground control in Israel to manned aircraft over a distant target.
High-tech: An Israeli Heron TP surveillance drone flies during a presentation at the Tel Nof Air Force base, south of Tel Aviv, last year
Israeli officials reportedly have been considering a military strike on Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from making an atomic weapon, and the Eitan, which soars as high as 40,000 feet, would likely play a key role in an attack. The distance between Iran and Israel is about 1,000 miles.
According to press accounts, the drone was used in a 2009 airstrike in Sudan against a Gaza-bound convoy carrying Iranian arms destined for the Hamas militant group.
The drone also is used reconnaissance missions over Lebanon and along the Egyptian border and to protect against sabotage of Israel’s offshore natural gas installations.
General Nehushtan said 25 percent of the air force’s mission are carried out by drones.
A squadron of Eitans was inaugurated in December 2010 and is scheduled to become operational in coming weeks.
In December, an advanced U.S. surveillance drone using stealth technology went down in Iran. Iranian officials claimed to have forced it down electronically.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2094181/High-tech-Israeli-d...
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