The Israeli Air Force (IAF) will begin operating the Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by the end of 2011.

Built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Heron TP drone, also called Eitan, has a 26m wingspan with a payload of about 1t and is capable of staying airborne for up to 45 hours.

The Eitan is primarily designed to conduct long-endurance, high-altitude electronic surveillance missions and is capable of firing missiles.

The drone is equipped with radar, cameras and high-tech electronic equipment including mapping devices to conduct surveillance missions.

The IAF had established a new UAV squadron consisting of Heron 1 and Hermes 900 UAVs last year.

Earlier this year, France signed a deal worth $500m with IAI for the purchase of the Heron TP for its troops in Afghanistan, according to the Jerusalem Post.