Germany to continue Heron flights in Mali


The German Ministry of Defence has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract extension to continue providing Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services to German troops stationed in Mali and Afghanistan.

The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) on 27 December announced it had extended the mission of the Heron I unmanned aerial vehicle in Mali and Afghanistan and signed the corresponding contracts with Airbus Defence & Space Airborne Solutions on 19 December in Koblenz.
“With the Heron I, our troops gain an information advantage that can make the difference between life and death. I am therefore very pleased that today we are able to make our contribution to the safety of our men and women on operations”, says Michael Engelmann, Director of Central Affairs at BAAINBw, who signed the contract for the Bundeswehr.

Over a range of several hundred kilometres, the Heron I can perform reconnaissance tasks with its up-to-date sensors and thus improve the safety of the German soldiers deployed in Mali as part of the UN MINUSMA mission and also in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, the BAAINBw said.

The Federal Office in Koblenz has now set the course for the continued operation of this system in both countries. The Bundeswehr has been using the Heron I in Mali since 2016 and in Afghanistan since 2010. There, the reconnaissance system has successfully completed more than 35 000 flight hours to date.

The unmanned aerial vehicle is made available to soldiers on operations by BAAINBw under a so-called operator agreement. This means that the pilots and imagery analysts of the Bundeswehr need do no more than plan und monitor the flight. Airbus Defence & Space Airborne Solutions as service provider will, in close cooperation with the manufacturer Israeli Aerospace Industries, be responsible for providing, launching and landing the HERON aerial vehicle.

BAAINBw has also provided for logistics and repairs in the contract. As a result, this need not be done by German soldiers either.

In Mali, operation without interruptions is achieved by extending the contract through a contract amendment while in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr exercises an option that has been contractually agreed. Extending both missions will involve costs of in total a good 68 million euros.

Since the Bundestag has extended the MINUSMA and Resolute Support missions of the Bundeswehr only until the end of April 2018, the contract includes an option to terminate it sooner.
“Should the Bundestag decide to not extend either mission, we will be able to terminate the respective contract accordingly. In any case, we will safeguard both missions and support our soldiers with a powerful and reliable means of reconnaissance”, Michael Engelmann said after having signed the contract.