The Australian Defence Force has reported its busiest-ever month in operating Israel Aerospace Industries Heron unmanned air vehicles in Afghanistan. The remotely piloted aircraft detachment logged 475 flight hours during operations from Kandahar airfield during April, the Department of Defence has said.

Australian personnel are on their fourth rotation in operating the medium-altitude, long-endurance type since its introduction in Afghanistan in January 2010. The DoD said 28 Australian and New Zealand Defence Force members are involved in the current tour of duty, with three UAVs in use.

 Oz Heron Kandahar - Australian DoD

Oz Heron UA - Australian DoD

Both images © Australian Department of Defence

With an operational endurance of up to 24h, the Israeli-designed type is used as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission.

"We have reached a point where we are able to achieve a significant amount of time on station providing an all-important 'eye in the sky' for our troops," said Wg Cdr Greg Wells, commanding officer of the Heron RPA detachment. "Every suspicious activity we investigate and every improvised explosive device activity we identify is potentially a life saved."

 Heron UAV GCS - Australian DoD
© Australian Department of Defence

Operated via a lease agreement with Canada's MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates and IAI, Australia's Herons have amassed a combined total of more than 4,600 flight hours in Afghanistan. Canberra late last year signed a one-year extension to continue the current service until at least December 2011.

Source: Flight International