Israel Aerospace Industries' Heron UAS Has Reached Full Operational Capability Under the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan
Jun 20, 2011
The German Air Force recently announced that the "Heron", Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)' advanced unmanned aerial system (UAS), has achieved full operational capability (FOC) under its activities in Afghanistan.
It's a significant milestone for the program, where IAI provided its Heron UAV system, together with its partner Rheinmetall Defence, to the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces). The program included full in-theatre logistical and maintenance services performed by Rheinmetall.
The aerial platforms supplied, are equipped with IAI's stabilized day/night electro-optical, SAR payloads and Satellite Communications (SATCOM). Within five months of the signing of the contract, Heron was already deployed in the Afghan skies.
The Heron MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAS, is an interim solution, yet decisively enhances the Bundeswehr’s important real- time intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) capabilities in their missions in Afghanistan. Heron is the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) ever to operate under the aegis of the GAF.
To date, the SAATEG interim solution has flown over 4,000 hours in Afghanistan, representing an average of twenty hours a day. At the end of May, the German Air Force declared the Heron squadron based in Mazar-e-Sharif to be fully operational.
Given its positive experience with the system, the Bundeswehr opted to extend the original one-year service contract for a further two years.
Furthermore, the German Air Force is reviewing ways of enhancing its performance.
In response to the Bundeswehr’s requirement for a follow-on solution for SAATEG in the near term IAI and Rheinmetall plan to participate in the tender and offer IAI's Heron TP (turbo prop) strategic UAS. An advanced version of the Heron, the Heron TP is ready to go into operation right away. Heron TP was successfully inducted into the Israeli Air Force in February 2010.
To a large extent, the system will be modified and produced in Germany, meaning that it will make a major contribution to national know-how in this field.
The 16.6 meter wingspan Heron, weighs 1,200 kg, is designed for strategic and tactical missions, reaches an altitude of 30,000 feet, and loiters for up to 30 hours.
The Heron is a member of the strategic UAV family, which also includes the Heron Turbo Prop (TP).
The Heron TP system includes a platform weighing 5,000 kg for medium altitude missions (45,000 ft). This UAV gives its operators flexibility in changing payload configurations according to the specific mission. Its wingspan is 26 meters and it can loiter continuously for 36 hours, carrying up to 1,000 kg of payloads. It has an operating ceiling of 45,000 feet (14,800 meter), higher than that of a civilian aircraft. Moreover, the Heron TP can operate in all weathers and climate zones.
Technologically speaking, the Heron TP represents the state of the art as well as offering robust scope for growth, especially with respect to payload. Various sensors can be easily integrated into the platform.
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