Airbus Defence & Space announced last week that the German Army has renewed a service agreement for HERON 1 unmanned aerial system (UAS) operations in Mali and Afghanistan.
Services have been extended in Afghanistan until May 2021. Since the first operational flight in theatre with German forces in March 2010, the aircraft has so far logged over 46,000 flight hours in more than 4,100 sorties. In Mali, HERON 1 services have been extended until July 2021, with an option for a further year. The aircraft has logged more than 1,200 missions and over 11,500 flight hours since the first operational flight in November 2016.
Both series of operations are being managed in a joint German Army/industry model, with aircraft provision, maintenance and repair the responsibility of Airbus Defence & Space in Bremen. This model has impressed observers, with high system readiness of 99%. The operations have also significantly increased the German Army experience relevant to future UAS potential.
Manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), HERON 1 is an unarmed medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS. Following an agreement between the German Army and Airbus in July 2018, the HERON 1 is to be replaced with the more powerful and capable HERON TP. The replacement process to be conducted over a two-year set-up phase, followed by an operational phase lasting a further seven years, thereby bridging the gap until a sovereign European MALE UAS is developed.