The Chinese military may have accessed sensitive components installed on a Heron UAV that crashed in Tibet on December 7 near the Indo-China border, Israeli media reports.
The Heron UAV, made by Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) was being flown by the Indian military when the crash happened due to a technical issue. The Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) is investigating whether secret components installed on the UAV, are in the hands of the Chinese army, Globes Newspaper reported.
Fragments from the crash site were collected by Chinese army forces. The UAV was one among several purchased from IAI by India and used by the Indian air force for intelligence gathering and routine security missions.
The crash apparently broke off contact between the drone and its operators. After contact was broken off, the UAV glided into Chinese territory and the Chinese army forces that viewed the crash quickly gathered the fragments, the report said.
Sensitive weapons systems of this type were usually equipped with a remote destruction mechanism enabling its operators to blow it up if it escapes their control.
The Israeli sources were unable to say whether the destruction mechanism had been used in this case. The Heron, which is regarded as one of the main UAVs produced by Israeli defense industries, has also been used in regular activities for years by the Israeli air force, which calls it the Shoval.
The Heron can carry heavy payloads adapted to the character of the mission. It is unclear what payloads had been installed on the Israeli UAV that crashed in Tibet.
Globes quoted the Israeli MoD as saying, "The particulars and circumstances of the event are being investigated by the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with IAI. The ministry naturally does not disclose particulars about the content of defense export deals."
Soon after the crash the Indian MoD had issued a statement saying that it was in touch with the Chinese authorities and addressing the issue as per standard protocol. It is unclear if China would return debris of the crashed drone.