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Since the 90's, there has been an effort to develop a heavy weight UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), weighing several tons. Most of the Israeli defense industry has been involved in the development process, in cooperation with the UAV office at the military's R&D Directorate (MAFAT).
The development of the plane and its systems was lead by the unmanned systems unit at IAI (Israel Aerospace Industry), while its platform development is lead by IAI's Engineering and Development Group. The newly developed UAV, named "Eitan" is an expensive, complex, and highly advanced aircraft, compared with presently deployed UAVs at the Israeli air force. Lot's of attention was paid to reliability and safety. At the end of the development process, the UAV must meet the same safety and reliability standards of a manned civilian airplane. ."Eitan" belongs to the "HALE" family of UAVs (High Altitude Long Endurance), meant to replace manned flights in various reconnaissance missions. Acting as a multi-purpose aircraft, it will gather general intelligence, mark targets for attack, photograph targets from a large distance, and an array of other missions presently done by manned aircraft.
Heavy weight UAVs such as "Eitan" feature extremely long flight endurance abilities of over 24 hours, making it perfectly suitable for missions where continuous military presence is required. "Eitan" will allow for such missions to be greatly simplified, as the need to deploy new aircraft every few hours will be eliminated.
The UAV is able to take off and land by itself, fly at any weather and high above civil air traffic.Similarly to previous models, "Eitan" features folding wheels and a back-up system able to roll them out when needed. In addition, "Eitan" is equipped with Israeli-made self-defense systems, and ability to identify rocket launch, giving it a truly unique edge over any other UAV worldwide. The significant technological advancements required a jet engine installation on board of "Eitan", which now enjoys a Turboprop engine, used by many passenger planes worldwide.