UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance RPAS

The Heron TP is designed for medium flight altitudes and long flight times (Medium Altitude - Long Endurance) designed. The all-weather aircraft is primarily used for reconnaissance. The image data obtained is transmitted in real time. However, the system can also be equipped with air-to-surface missiles. The drone is controlled via a satellite link and built by the Israeli manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Compared to Heron 1, Heron TP has clear advantages, especially in terms of speed, range, sensor performance, approval and weapon capability. This can optionally be implemented with scalable, all-weather and stand-off precision ammunition. Heron TP is intended to support the soldiers of the Bundeswehr and the allied forces in their operations. The system contributes significantly better to their protection on the ground. Heron TP thus provides essential skills for success in the field.

At its meeting on 06 April 2022, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag approved the funds for arming the Heron TP Remotely Piloted Aircraft System reconnaissance drone. In the future, the drones can be equipped with special precision guided missiles. A total of around 150 million euros are earmarked for armament, staff training and peripheral equipment. The decision of the German Bundestag is at the end of the broad drone debate . The Heron TP can now be equipped with guided missiles specially developed for the system. This ammunition can be used to achieve a rapid, precise and spatially limited effect against vehicles or positions.

The Bundeswehr has been using Heron-type drones in foreign missions since 2010. There, the previous model Heron 1 was used for reconnaissance. Like the Heron TP now being introduced, Germany also leased this model from Israel. The Heron TP is designed for medium flight altitudes and long flight times (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) . The image data obtained is transmitted in real time. Among other things, the aircraft can be controlled via a satellite connection.

In contrast to Heron TP, Heron 1 was used by the Bundeswehr exclusively as a reconnaissance drone; the system is non-armament capable and not all-weather capable. This resulted in restrictions in mission and path planning.

The Bundeswehr had been successfully using the Heron 1 system since 2010 for imaging reconnaissance and surveillance in the depth of the operational area in Afghanistan and since 2016 also in Mali. In contrast to the Heron TP, however, the Heron 1 is located in the lower spectrum on the performance scale of this aircraft class. The significantly better flight performance of Heron TP compared to Heron 1 enables a faster shift in the focus of operations. In addition, the effectively usable time in the operational area is longer - a great advantage, especially when the drone is far away from its departure airport. The Bundeswehr wanted to negotiate with Israel about leasing the armed drone Heron TP. The Bundeswehr began contract negotiations in January 2016. These depend on how the leasing will be structured in concrete terms. The improved armament management contributes to risk minimization. Here, the selection decision was linked to conditions for approval and weapon integration.

The American drone Predator/Guardian Eagle was also considered in the selection. The advantages, such as the earlier availability of the Heron TP, outweigh the overall consideration. The Predator would probably only be available for the Bundeswehr up to a year and a half later. Further advantages can be found in individual technical requirements, such as scalable armament and a backup landing system. However, the Predator will be reconsidered as an option if the aforementioned conditions of the selection decision are not met. This kept the competition open.

Depending on the contract negotiations, three to five systems are to be leased. The drones will be stationed in Israel. The Tactical Air Force Squadron 51 in Jagel, Schleswig-Holstein, is planned as the German home unit. The training takes place in the tried and tested way in Israel and also in Jagel with the help of a simulator. Another advantage of using the Heron TP for the German Armed Forces is the simple conversion of personnel and logistics from Heron 1 to Heron TP.

"It will be about a weapon-capable drone, that will be standard in the future. It is important for the protection of soldiers on foreign missions," Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in January 2015. Parliament will decide on the armament in each specific case.

On June 13, 2018, officials from the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the German Armed Forces) and the company Airbus Defense & Space Airborne Solutions ( ADAS) signed a contract for the use of the Israeli reconnaissance drone Heron TP (Heron, TP abbreviation for turboprop).

The Heron TP contract between Airbus DS Airborne Solutions company GmbH (ADAS) and the Bundeswehr includes the technical adaptation of the weapon-capable drone to the requirements of the armed forces. The contract also regulates the provision of the Heron TP for a certain number of flight hours. In addition, the contract regulates the training of the contractor's repair staff and the technical and logistical support by industrial staff in routine operation. The aim of the contract is - in addition to basic operation - the earliest possible use of Heron TP in action.

Equipping the Bundeswehr with armed drones has long been politically controversial. According to the German Bundestag coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SPD in 2018 about the procurement of the armament only after "detailed international law,constitutional and ethical assessment” (Chapter XII, No. 7, p. 159). The governing parties paved the way for this in their coalition agreement. There it says: “Armed drones can contribute to the protection of soldiers on foreign missions. We will therefore allow the Bundeswehr to arm drones during this legislative period, subject to binding and transparent conditions and taking ethical and security policy aspects into account. The rules of international law apply to their use. We reject extrajudicial killings – including by drones.”

The Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) presented the “Report of the Federal Ministry of Defense to the Germans Bundestag to debate the possible procurement of armed drones for the Bundeswehr” on the public debate on a possible procurement of armed drones for the German Federal Armed Forces to the German Bundestag on 03 July 2020. The ministry thus provided an important basis for parliament to refer to the matter with the aim of making a decision on the procurement of armed drones for the Bundeswehr.

This reported noted "Through improved abilities for reconnaissance and thus also for differentiation between civilians and combatants as well as the possibility of scalable deployment of effective means (even the knowledge of an immediate ability to react candeter opponents) enable UAS to react appropriately and promptly to the situation. This is both the requirement of international humanitarian law, between under protectionstanding civilians and civilian objects on the one hand and legitimate military ones ... Armed drones not only increase the security and responsiveness of our own forces and those of our partners in action, they can also significantly contribute to the protection of the civilian population and civilian institutions on site. Therefore the BMVg and the Bundeswehr decided to procure armed UAS."

The term UAS is used synonymously with the term “drones”. The term “drone” used colloquially and in the media context is ambiguous and only describes the flying vehicle itself. Armed unmanned aerial vehicle systems are operated by licensed military pilots and are therefore not autonomous. UAS are therefore not lethal autonomous weapon systems (so-called Lethal Autonomous Weapons, LAWS). The federal government rejects the use of LAWS and, as in the coalition agreement, calls for their international ostracism.

Length14 meters
Span26 meters
Drive1,200 hp turboprop engine
Payloadup to 1 ton
Maximum take-off weight5.4 tons
flight timeup to 27 hours of use
flight altitudeup to 12,500 meters

Heron RPAS Heron RPAS Heron RPAS Heron RPAS

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 09-04-2022 18:15:08 ZULU