The Royal Australian Air Force has received its first unmanned aerial vehicle, a Heron, on lease from Canada for operations in Afghanistan .

The Heron UAV is a 1t surveillance aircraft capable of medium-altitude long-endurance flights. The UAV Heron can conduct operations extending over 24 hours at a maximum speed of over 100kt up to altitudes of 10,000m.

Australian defence minister senator John Faulkner said the high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability will enhance the capability of the Australian forces serving in Afghanistan.

“In particular a long endurance UAV can enhance force protection by providing ground commanders with real time intelligence,” he said.

“The experience that air force gains in operating long-endurance UAVs in Afghanistan will also help shape the development of unmanned defence capabilities for Australia through the next decade.”

Royal Australian Air Force personnel along with the Australian Army undertook Heron training in Canada and have been absorbed within the Canadian Heron UAV detachment at Kandahar airfield conducting combat operations in support of ISAF.

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Australia has acquired the UAV through a memorandum of understanding with Canadian company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates.