From March 2010 Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles will be operated by the German armed forces in Afghanistan under a government leasing deal worth tens of millions of euros.
Two ground stations and three Heron UAVs, with one acting as a spare, are to be leased by the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement from Düsseldorf-based prime contractor and IAI partner Rheinmetall Defence. The agreement will run for one year, with an option for two more years.
A 24h-a-day, seven-days-a-week in-theatre maintenance and support centre will be operated by Rheinmetall, while the Herons will be flown by German military personnel on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
The Canadian and French armed forces are already using the Heron in Afghanistan, and Australia also recently signed a deal to use the type.
© Australian Department of Defence
Australia has also selected the Heron 1 for use in Afghanistan
Rheinmetall and IAI beat General Atomics' MQ-9 Predator B for this deal, which is a stop gap measure before the German government makes a decision to procure a MALE system. The earliest industry expects such a procurement is at the end of the Rheinmetall leasing arrangement.
With a 16.6m (54.4ft) wingspan and a take-off weight of 1,200kg (2,640lb), the Heron 1 can reach 30,000ft (9,150m) and loiter for over 24h. The sensor package to be provided to the German military includes a day/night electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar payload.
By using satellite communications the Heron will cover the whole area of German operations in northern Afghanistan.
"We are proud to provide along with Rheinmetall our operationally proven UAV systems to the German armed forces," says IAI president Itzhak Nissan.