On 12 December 2018, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) extended the successful operation of HERON1 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by renewing contracts with Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH, a company of Airbus, until mid 2020.
The contract comprises the provision of all assets and manpower to support HERON 1 systems operations in the two countries of deployment (the German Air Force has been using the HERON 1 system in Afghanistan since 2010 and in Mali since 2016). HERON 1, manufactured by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS that can stay airborne above the respective operational area for very long periods and can be operated from unpaved runways under harsh environmental conditions.
The UAS has a wingspan of approx. 17m and a loitering capability of 24+ hours. The detection of mines from the air, convoy and patrol unit escort, route exploration and supervision and camp protection rank among its military tasks. In addition it is also used for security and humanitarian support operations.
With its operational range of up to 800km, it significantly expands the possibilities of airborne reconnaissance of the German contingent.
Airbus is responsible for provision, maintenance and repair of the systems and guarantees the agreed operational availability of HERON 1 in both Afghanistan and Mali onbasis 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 dronesystem and carry out test flights thus ensuring that the drones 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.