October 9, 2015:
India recently revealed that in early September 2015 it had approved the purchase of ten Israeli Heron TP UAVs. This model is equipped to carry smart bombs and guided missiles. India is paying about $40 million each for the Heron TPs. India has been buying Israeli UAVs for over a decade. The recent purchase was revealed in response to Pakistani announcing its first use of an armed UAV.
The Heron TP was developed as an unarmed surveillance aircraft, but there has been so much demand for armed UAVs that in 2013 Israel modified the Heron TP to handle weapons. The Heron TP entered squadron service in the Israeli Air Force (with 210 Squadron) in 2009. The UAV's first combat service was in 2010, when it was used off the coast of Gaza, keeping an eye on ships seeking to run the blockade.
Development of the Heron TP was largely completed in 2007, mainly for the export market, and the Israeli military was in no rush to buy it. There have been some export sales and the Israeli air force eventually realized that this was an ideal UAV for long range operations or for maritime patrol. But it turned out there were few missions like that.
Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turboprop engine, the 4.6 ton Heron TP can operate at 14,500 meters (45,000 feet). That is above commercial air traffic and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAVs fly 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. 4.7 ton MQ-9 Reaper. The big difference between the two is that Reaper was designed as a combat aircraft, operating at a lower altitude, with less endurance, and able to carry a ton of smart bombs or missiles. Heron TP was designed mainly for reconnaissance and surveillance especially since Israel wants to keep a closer, and more persistent, eye on Syria and southern Lebanon.