Rheinmetall Airborne Systems receives German UAV contract extension
Rheinmetall Airborne Systems, a joint venture between Cassidian and Rheinmetall, will continue to support the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan by providing unmanned airborne reconnaissance services.
The Federal Office for Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB) extended an existing order to the company to provide the German Armed Forces with Heron 1 ‘ultramodern unmanned reconnaissance aircraft’ for two more years, and is worth €75 million for the period from October 2012 to October 2014.
The order includes the continuation of flight operations, as well as the training of additional operational personnel of the German Air Force and the installation of new, more powerful sensor payloads.
As part of the SAATEG (systems for imagery reconnaissance deep in the area of operations) interim solution, the German Air Force is using two UAS at the Mazar-e-Sharif base in Afghanistan, with a total of three Heron 1 aircraft and two GCS provided by Rheinmetall Airborne Systems as part of an operator solution.
SAATEG is used for real-time airborne monitoring and reconnaissance in the entire theatre of operations of the German ISAF forces, and was put into operation on 17 March 2010.
‘Heron, the first UAS operated by the German Air Force, has proved its value in operations and has become an essential component of the regional reconnaissance architecture,’ a statement from the company explained.
‘To date, the Heron 1 has already flown over 9,300 hours of reconnaissance missions in the theatre of operations of the German Armed Forces. It is expected to have flown for 10,000 hours by the middle of August 2012.’
Flights can last some 24 hours, during which the sensors deliver information and make a ‘valuable contribution’ to providing high levels of protection to soldiers and civil personnel.
In autumn 2009 the German Armed Forces opted for an operator solution in order to fill an existing capability gap in the short-term.
The sub-contractor is IAI as the manufacturer of the Heron aerial system; however Rheinmetall Airborne Systems is responsible for the complete package of service, maintenance and repairs in this partnership. The operation of the systems in the reconnaissance mission is handled by the military personnel of the German Armed Forces.
Heron 1 can be deployed for target and effect clarification at any time of the day or night, and is ‘largely independent of the weather’. With a wingspan of 16.6m and a takeoff weight of 1.2 tonnes, the Heron 1 can operate at altitudes of some 30,000ft. A satellite data link also ensures the UAS can carry out reconnaissance over great distances.
By January 2012 Cassidian and Rheinmetall had already agreed to operate the former activities of Rheinmetall in the field of UAS in future as a joint venture with Cassidian (51% shareholder stake of the company) bearing responsibility for industrial leadership. Rheinmetall is still involved with a 49% stake in the joint company, which started operations on 1 July.
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