The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has inadvertently revealed the existence of an enhanced version of its Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron 1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) during the biennial 'Forging Sabre' exercise that was staged from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, United States, from 30 September to 10 October.
An image published by Singapore-based news agency CNA on 7 October clearly showed an RSAF Heron 1 UAV that has been equipped with a belly mounted bulged pod - housing an undisclosed external sensor payload - being towed at the airbase. The image was quietly removed for unknown reasons by the morning of 8 October and replaced by an image of another RSAF Heron 1 UAV without the belly pod.
Jane's understands from industry sources that the external sensor package was first trialled at the 2017 edition of the exercise, with at least two air vehicles configured for wide-area intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
At the time the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) also debuted an indigenously developed command-and-control (C2) system that can integrate the Heron 1's video feeds into an augmented reality display and supported by advanced video analytics software.
"Using advanced graphics rendering technology, static geographical data [such as] landmarks, road names, building types, [and] vegetation are overlaid on top of the real-time video captured by the UAV," DSTA said in a statement, noting that integrated display reduces the cognitive load of the operators and the time they need to orientate themselves to the latest ground situation picture. "Previously, videos captured by the UAV had to be manually correlated and marked out on a separate static map display."
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