Australia will continue to operate Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned air vehicles in Afghanistan until at least December 2011, following its signature of a contract extension with Canada's MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).
The Australian Defence Force flew its first mission with the leased medium-altitude, long-endurance system last January, in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission.
Canberra had contracted MDA and its partner IAI in September 2009, with their initial contract to run until the end of this year.
© Australian Department of Defence
"MDA will provide a second year of UAV surveillance operations for the ADF's deployed forces in Afghanistan," the company announced in late July. "The timeframe for this extension is January through December 2011."
The Heron's long-endurance characteristics are used to enhance the ADF's other deployed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, which include Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle tactical UAVs.
The MDA/IAI team also provide Heron-based services for the Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan, while France and Germany also operate examples of the type.
Additional reporting by Craig Hoyle in London