German Herons clock up 15,000 hours in Afghanistan
Three Heron 1 UAVs have logged 15,000 operational flight hours on behalf of German forces in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.
Operated on behalf of the Luftwaffe by Cassidian subsidiary Airborne Solutions, the three systems are used for persistent surveillance for both Bundeswehr and NATO forces operating in the ‘entire northern half’ of Afghanistan.
Cassidian described Heron’s capability to monitor ongoing operations via real-time video as ‘essential criterion’ for missions. The vehicles are supported by two ground stations.
Thomas Reinartz, managing director of Cassidian Airborne Solutions, said: ‘With this system the Luftwaffe is performing leading services in comparison to other nations. The positive system and mission experience thus gained by the Luftwaffe and industry will be incorporated into future UAS use.’
Heron 1 is deployed by the Bundeswehr in a so-called operator model, on a leasing basis. The contract also provides for the take-offs and landings in Mazar-e-Sharif to be controlled by Cassidian pilots, after which the aircraft are handed over in the air to Bundeswehr personnel. The Bundeswehr is thus able to dedicate its full attention to completing its mission, as staff are not burdened with auxiliary tasks.
Manufactured by the Israeli company IAI, Heron 1 is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS. The aircraft has a wingspan of 17 metres and a maximum mission endurance of over 24 hours.
Its tasks include detecting booby traps from the air, accompanying convoys and patrols, assisting forces in combat situations, reconnoitring and surveilling routes, establishing movement profiles and long-term monitoring, supporting situation assessments, and protecting property and military camps.
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