A German court is expected to rule next week on an appeal by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems against the German air force's decision to select Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Heron TP unmanned air vehicle. With a lower court having previously rejected the appeal, this represents the last legal opportunity to challenge the selection.
Sources tell FlightGlobal that the US manufacturer's appeal is based on a claim that the selection was made without a proper competition. General Atomics is also objecting because the Heron TP is not already in the inventory of a NATO country, unlike its own MQ-9 Reaper.
In January 2016, Germany's chief of defence Gen Volker Wieker announced that it would pursue a lease deal for the Heron TP system, based on its experience with IAI's Heron 1, which has accumulated more than 30,000 flight hours with the German air force in Afghanistan.
Berlin says the Heron TP will be used to support the operations of Bundeswehr personnel until a planned European medium-altitude, long-endurance type becomes available. Now in its definition phase, this activity also involves France and Italy. The interim system could be armed, the German defence ministry says, and will be delivered in a similar configuration to examples now flown by the Israeli air force.
The leasing concept is based on existing co-operation between the Bundeswehr and an industrial partnership of Airbus Defence & Space and IAI to provide services with the Heron 1 in Afghanistan. Berlin recently decided to extend its current arrangement with the companies until at least February 2018, with the system providing surveillance from Mazar-e-Sharif air base.