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Israel’s new unmanned bomber

One of my little pleasures in life is finding interesting pictures to put on my personal blog which are vertically very thin, and which thus assist in the pursuit of blogging brevity. As here for instance, yesterday, when I displayed a wafer thin slice of a picture of the rings of Saturn.

And I was all set to put this picture up at my personal blog too, until I found myself asking technological questions of the sort that Samizdata’s commenters are the very people to answer.


That picture, severely cropped by me, I found here. It is the new unmanned Israeli bomber, the Heron TP. The Israelis have apparently just put a flock of them into service.

Two thoughts.

One, this is surely vivid evidence of the wisdom, from the purely defence point of view (never mind the wider economic arguments), of the Israelis contriving, with encouraging tax policies, their own version of Silicon Valley, said to be second only in the world to Silicon Valley itself. And who knows how long the original will last, given the current insanity of Californian fiscal policy. The surrounding enemies of Israel can only dream of being able to contrive such birds. But is this a purely Israeli achievement, or did Americans have a big input? And do Israelis now have quite a big input into American aircraft of a similar sort?

Two, I find it interesting that although there is no pilot on board, there is still a bulge at the front and on top, just as if there was. Why is that? It surely can’t just be that they are used to such bulges at the front of airplanes, so they stuck with it. Could it? I’m guessing it’s the logical spot to put lots of guidance kit, telling the bird where it is and where to fly next and how to aim its weapons. It’s the best place to put, that is to say, the various “pilots”. Or, is their some aerodynamic reason? Comments on that appreciated.

10 comments to Israel’s new unmanned bomber

  • Engineer Bob

    According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heron_TP, “The Eitan [Heron TP] was publicly unveiled at a media event at Tel Nof Airbase on 8 October 2007.”

    The news is that a “large” fleet is now deployed, not that the plane exists.

    I have no knowledge, but I suspect Israel exports UAV expertise to the US, not vice versa.

  • Joe

    I don’t think that UAV designs are optimized yet. To put guidance systems else where, would mean moving something else first. So it hasn’t happened yet, the RQ-170 Sentinel is a design that was started from a “cleaner” sheet and it is less clear where guidance is located.

  • Gareth

    If this schematic of a Global Hawk is anything to go by the bulge is probably for a dish for control purposes.

  • cthulhu

    It’s almost certainly a bulge for a dish antenna. Much different than “guidance kit”. IAI tends to the kind of design that the former Teledyne Ryan (the inventors of the Global Hawk autonomous UAV, now part of Northrop Grumman) is still the world expert at: autonomous flight, not merely remotely piloted a la General Atomics and Lockheed Martin. So you don’t need the dish to fly the airplane; it’s for sending back lots and lots of data at 100+ megabits/sec.

  • AKM

    The reason for the positioning of the hump is that the dish is for satellite communications to allow over-the-horizon control.

  • RRS

    A plausible scenario will be the use of (at least) two techniques to end the present trend:

    1- “turn of the lights” in all of the selected locales; i.e., disable the crucial electric power generation.

    2 – As the start up of “standby” facilities go onstream to continue the nuclear production operations, providing target data, concentration of long range, unmanned destruction, even at loss of vehicles (Robo-Kamikazis).

    Finally, if not conclusive, long range destruction of oil production, at the sources.

    That is the basic reason for anti-missle facilities going into the other oil producers; to prevent significant Iranian retaliation against Kuwait and Saudi sources.

    It has been said that get the right grasp on the right parts of the anatomy and hearts and minds will follow.

  • David Gillies

    I think this is a sign of earnest on the Israelis’ part. They realize how vital it is to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Contrary to popular opinion, a plausible nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel would likely leave Israel a survivor, albeit grievously wounded, but would essentially end 5000 years of Persian civilisation and kill upwards of 50 million Iranians. It’s altogether possible Israel would destroy Damascus, Cairo and Beirut as a prophylactic measure. The death toll in a single day could exceed that of WW2.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    This type of technology has been around for decades. Well before 9/11. Oh no. Just let the cat out of the bag.

  • cthulhu, AKM: I am not expert in this area, but a coworker of mine who worked for Raytheon for a while thinks the dish is a radar component.