The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has renewed its service contract agreement with Airbus Defence and Space for Heron 1 unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are in operation in Afghanistan and Mali.

In March, services of Heron 1 UASs in Afghanistan were extended from June until May next year.

With over 4,100 operational flights, the aircraft has reached more than 46,000 flight hours. In addition, the German Air Force passed the milestone of ten years of Heron 1 operations in Afghanistan.

The first operational flight in Afghanistan commenced in March 2010.

Separately, Heron 1 services in Mali have been extended from August until July next year. It has an optional extension until July 2022.

In Mali, the aircraft conducted more than 1,200 operational flights with 11,500 flight hours. In November 2016, the system’s first flight in Mali took off.

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By GlobalData

Deployment in the two countries is being managed using a joint operator model between the Bundeswehr and industry.

Airbus in Bremen is responsible for the Heron 1’s provision, maintenance and repair.

Heron 1 is manufactured by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is an unarmed medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS with the ability to remain airborne during operation.

With a wingspan of 16.6m, the UAS has a maximum mission endurance of more than 24 hours.

The system’s military tasks include detection of set traps from the air, accompanying convoys and patrols, assisting forces in combat situations, and monitoring surveillance routes.

Additionally, the aircraft is used for monitoring, supporting situation assessments, protecting military camps and supporting humanitarian missions.

Currently deployed by the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali, the Heron 1 systems will be replaced by IAI Heron TP.

The replacement will include a two-year set-up phase and an operational phase of seven years.