The German government has approved the deployment of another Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the United Nations mission in Mali, which will bring the total to four.
On 5 May, the budget committee of the Bundestag released funds for an extension and expansion of the operator contract for Heron UAVs with the MINUSMA mission in Mali.
The German government said that with four Heron I aircraft instead of the previous three and three instead of two ground control stations, the German contingent will be able to use two of the unmanned reconnaissance systems simultaneously.
The fourth aircraft will provide the German contingent with a necessary reserve. In this way, planned downtimes of the Heron I can be compensated for and unplanned downtimes will not have a negative effect on the provision of UAV capabilities.
Since September 2020, the Bundeswehr has been using two Heron I aircraft at the same time in Mali.
The new operator contract with Airbus Defence & Space Airborne Solutions runs until the end of April 2024. Airbus is responsible for the provision, maintenance and repair of the Heron I and the ground control stations. The operations of the reconnaissance systems are carried out by soldiers of the Bundeswehr.
As part of MINUSMA, the Heron I has been flying from Gao in northern Mali since 2016. By July 2020 the aircraft had logged more than 11 500 flight hours in over 1 200 operational flights.