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Australian Heron UAVs return to flight

Australian defence forces resumed use of the Heron unmanned air vehicle in Afghanistan on 1 November, following a 24h grounding order.

Canadian contractor MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) temporarily suspended flying the UAVs worldwide as a precautionary measure, pending advice from the manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries, following a series of landing gear malfunctions.

"The Australian Heron was grounded for a very short period of time due to the need to update the maintenance procedures to the extreme climate environment," says IAI. The company did not comment further.

© Australian Department of Defence

A previous incident involving a landing gear malfunction caused minor damage to an Australian-operated Heron on 28 September after the landing gear in the nose failed to deploy, says the Australian Department of Defence.

Australian forces flew their first mission with the leased medium-altitude, long-endurance system last January, in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission. In July, Canberra signed an agreement with MDA for the contractor to continue to operate the UAVs on its behalf through December 2011.

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