The German Air Force is preparing to deploy its first Israeli Heron 1 UAV to Afghanistan in March 2010, following the completion of the first air force UAV crew’s training in Israel.

The air force’s first eight UAV operators completed training as aerial vehicle and payload operators in January, according to

Air force personnel and civilian maintainers had been received training since late 2009 on how to operate the Heron 1 UAV platform.

The air force acquired the Heron 1 from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) as an urgent requirement for a MALE UAV capability.

The Heron 1 is capable of offering all-weather, day-and-night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support.

It can carry a 500lb payload, and simultaneously conduct missions up to 24 hours long, depending on the particular mission fit.

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Synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and infrared sensors, and a datalink to transmit full-motion video in near-real time are included in the Heron 1 payload.

On 5 February, the air force’s first UAV squadron, under Aufklarungsgeschwader 51 (Reconnaissance Wing 51), based at Schleswig-Jagel in northern Germany, became operational.

IAI, working jointly with Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence on the UAV project, will deliver three Heron I UAV and two ground stations to the German Air Force in 2010.