An Israeli company, Israel Aerospace Industries, is now leasing maritime reconnaissance drones to Greece, which will have an option to buy them after their lease agreement is up.
The “Maritime Heron” drone aerial reconnaissance system will be leased to Greece for the duration of three years, but the nation will have the ability to purchase them after that time, according to a statement from the IAI that was released recently.
This is not the first sign that the military relationship between the two Mediterranean nations is growing ever stronger.
The first contracts regarding the establishment of drone bases on Malta and in Greece were signed in 2020, covering all the unmanned aircraft and their essential ground support at each site. Under that deal, Israel’s Defense Ministry also leased the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system for three years.
Daytime and nighttime reconnaissance possible
The Heron system, which is used by Israel’s military and in naval forces around the world, is equipped with both day and night activity platforms.
It will be used by Greece primarily for border defense, the Israeli ministry said in a statement at the time, adding that the security relationship between Israel and Greece is expanding.
“We hope to sign additional agreements with Greece as well as other European partners, assisting them in addressing security challenges – in times of the corona pandemic and beyond,” stated Yair Kulas, the head of Israel’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate.
FRONTEX, the European Union’s border security agency, has also been the beneficiary of Israeli drone technology.
The Maritime Heron unmanned aerial vehicles perform constant reconnaissance both day and night and can contain patrol radar systems and satellite communications. Their uses are multiple, with protection of maritime and land borders, search and rescue, and disaster management among them.
The drone contract is reported to be worth several tens of millions of euros; the joint Airbus/IAI/Frontex agreement calls for Frontec to pay for the operational flight hours for the vehicles.
The international program may be expanded to include other Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Portugal, according to appropriate needs as time goes on, as decided by Frontex.
FRONTEX selection of IAI’s Maritime Heron allows the organization to use many sensors operated on manned aircraft, such as Elta Systems’ ELM2022 maritime surveillance radar and Automated Identification System (AIS) devices, according to reports.
This includes tracking ships as they ply their their routes at sea, as well as High Definition Electro-Optical payloads for identification and recognition of vessels and other targets that are seen by radar and other equipment.
According to a statement from IAI, its unique “Long Runner” capability enabling Maritime Heron drones to land and take off from remote locations without preparation may be utilized to address new missions as needed by Frontex.
IAI drones have already been leased to such nations as Canada, Australia, Spain and Germany. At one time they were also the most prominent international unmanned surveillance systems in Afghanistan, supporting coalition forces with both the “Searcher” and Heron models of the aircraft.