Australia has extended the deployment of the Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in Afghanistan, until July 2014.
Since January 2010, the Heron RPA has provided high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to missions in Uruzgan province and southern Afghanistan.
The Heron detachment will shift its focus to support coalition operations in Regional Command South during the final period of transition of security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, as Australia’s presence in Uruzgan comes to an end.
The Heron RPA, which will be based at Kandahar Air Field, will provide a highly capable system for Nato-led security mission International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) Regional Command South in the coming months.
Australia Air Force chief air marshal Geoff Brown said the Heron has provided the air force with experience and knowledge essential for the use of unmanned platforms in the air force’s future fleet.
"The air force has gained immense experience in the use of unmanned aerial systems during the campaign in Afghanistan. The extension of the Heron deployment until July 2014 will continue this important capability," said Brown.
To provide high-resolution ISR capabilities, Heron RPA uses multiple sensors simultaneously, and is capable of medium altitude long endurance flights.
With a maximum speed of around 100k (180 km/h) and at altitudes of up to 10,000m, Heron can conduct operations in excess of 24 hours.
Image: A Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). Photo: courtesy of Australian Defence Force.