Australia will extend its lease of Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned air vehicles used in Afghanistan.

The extension, signed with Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), will take Australia’s in-theatre use of the assets to July 2014.

“The Heron RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] has been operating in the Middle East area of Operations since January 2010, providing ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] support to missions in Uruzgan province and southern Afghanistan,” says the Australian defence ministry.

“With the end of Australia’s presence in Uruzgan approaching, the Heron detachment will shift focus to support coalition operations in Regional Command South during the final period of transition of security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan elections scheduled for 5 April next year.”

The aircraft, based at Kandahar air field, have provided the air force with extensive knowledge of unmanned air systems operations, adds chief of air force AM Geoff Brown.