Yesterday, the IAF’s newest and largest UAV aircraft, the Heron or Eitan, crashed in central Israel and cost the military nearly $5 million.According to an initial investigation report and interview with Brigadier General Yonatan Karni, the navigation in the airliner-sized drone failed and one of the wings was not secured properly, causing the plane to spin out of control and crash near Moshav Yesodot.  According to Karni, the wing that became detached was carrying new technology that was being tested during the test flight.  Karni also reported that the crash occurred at the end of a joint Israel Aircraft Industries and IAF drill when the aircraft crashed on its return to the Tel Nof base, with the wing ending up in an orchard and the plane in the base.

The IAF spokesman and designer of the drone said there would be a full investigation into the incident and confirmed that a wing became detached due to the aircraft performing a maneuver the structure could not withstand which in turn caused the crash.

The crash comes just before the IAF was to open a base dedicated to UAVs and established its first squadron of drone aircraft made up of Heron and Hermes UAVs.  Speculation is that those UAVs will be capable of carrying missiles and guns, although the IAF has not confirmed the rumors.Israel has multiple UAVs that it uses in surveillance capacities all over Israel, specifically to track the movements of terrorists in the West Bank as well as on its borders with Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.  It has been used recently to protect Israel’s energy assets.  The Eitan drone, also known as the Heron, is the largest drone that is the size of a small airliner, has the longest range and can be used in a wide range of capacities.   The drone is scheduled to enter service soon and several Western European nations such as France have expressed an interest in the plane.  The crash will likely delay its use until the cause of the crash is determined.