Airbus to operate Heron I drones for Germany in Mali


The German Defence Procurement Agency (BAAInBw) and Airbus Defence and Space have signed a contract to provide Heron I surveillance drones to support the Bundeswehr mission in Mali.

Similar to the mission in Afghanistan that has been operational since 2010, the unmanned aerial systems will be leased from Israeli manufacturer IAI and operated by Airbus. Military missions will in future be flown solely by military personnel. The operations in Mali will start in November 2016 and are initially planned until February 2018.
“A major success factor for this new assignment is experience gained in more than 2 300 missions over Afghanistan,” said Thomas Reinartz, Head of Sales for unmanned aerial systems at Airbus. “There we proved our reliability to the full satisfaction of our customer – with a fleet availability higher than 95%.”

As from July 1 this year the Bundeswehr will take over responsibility for the intelligence unit in Mali from the Netherlands. In the perimeter of the UN MINUSMA mission, German forces are taking on tasks mainly in the Gao region. The current threat scenarios and the size of the area of operations – the north of Mali is more than twice the size of Germany – require a long endurance surveillance system.

By using the current operator model the Bundeswehr benefits in various aspects. In addition to high availability of the fleet and high flexibility in terms of contract duration the German forces can focus on core missions. They also profit from the system’s full compatibility and inter-operability within NATO.

The extension of the Heron I operational model is paving the way for the next generation Heron TP, which has been selected by the German Bundeswehr Chief of Staff to succeed the Heron I and bridge the timeframe until a European drone development will be available.