Warplanes: French UAVs Over Libya

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September 4, 2011: France revealed that it had sent some of its Harfang ("Eagle") UAVs to operate over Libya. The first mission took place on August 24th. The Harfang is a variant of the Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Harfang was meant to serve as a Predator substitute, until a new design can be developed in France. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton Heron TP can operate at 15.5 kilometers (45,000 feet) altitude. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, which is the same size as Heron. The big difference between the two is that Reaper is designed to be a combat aircraft, operating at a lower altitude, with less endurance, and able to carry a ton of smart bombs or missiles.

Three Harfangs were purchased two years ago, and sent to Afghanistan last year. Initially, Harfangs in Afghanistan only flew about one sortie a week per aircraft. There were technical problems, and much of the time, only one of the three was available for service. The Harfang usually flies missions of less than 24 hours.

Despite the technical problems with the Harfangs in Afghanistan, France ordered a fourth one. France has tried to buy Predators, but the waiting list is long, and French troops need UAV support now. European aircraft manufacturers have yet to come up with a world class UAV design (like the American Predator and Reaper, or the Israeli Heron, etc.)

 

 

 


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