Germany extends Heron contracts for Afghanistan and Mali


After flying more than 46 000 operational hours over Afghanistan and Mali, the German Air Force has extended operations by Airbus DS Airborne Solutions for more than a year, until mid-2020.
The contracts were signed with the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support on 12 December. 
The contract comprises the provision of all assets and manpower  to support  the Israeli Heron I systems operations  in the two countries of deployment. Heron I, manufactured by IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries), is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS).
The Heron I has a wingspan of about seventeen meters and a maximum mission duration of more than twenty-four hours and range of 800 km. The detection of IEDs from the air, convoy and patrol unit escort, route exploration and supervision, creation of movement profiles and long-term supervision, support for status reports as well as object and camp protection rank among its military tasks. In addition the system is also used for security and humanitarian support operations.
The German Air Force has been using the Heron I system in Afghanistan since 2010 and in Mali since 2016. Airbus is responsible for the provision, maintenance and repair of the systems and guarantees the agreed operational availability of the Heron I in both Afghanistan and Mali on the basis of a services model. For this purpose, Airbus has technicians and UAS specialists, on-site in Mazar-I-Sharif (Afghanistan) and Gao (Mali) who maintain the system and carry out test flights thus ensuring that the aircraft are available to the Bundeswehr at any time, as contractually agreed. This services model permits the Bundeswehr to concentrate completely on the fulfillment of its mission during operation, without being additionally burdened by the maintenance of the system, Airbus said.
“In Afghanistan and Mali, the services model has proven its performance capability by reaching a system availability of more than 98%. The proven capability of the Heron system to support worldwide deployment missions is reflected in these contract extensions as well as in the signed contract on the next generation RPAS MALE HERON TP.” said Ralf Hastedt, Head of Sales and Business Development of Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH.
“We are very pleased to see the satisfaction of the German Air Force with the Heron UAS activities and the excellent cooperation with Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, forming  the basis for such a renewed contract extending the capabilities for long-range airborne reconnaissance of the German Air Force in Afghanistan and Mali by at least another year,” said Moshe Levy, IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of IAI Military Aircraft Group.