Germany has extended the Heron 1 unmanned aerial system (UAS) maintenance deal, securing another year of operation for the system’s deployment to Mali.
The extension, worth 30 million euros, was announced by the defense ministry on May 14, which added that it has an option for a further one-year extension.
The Heron UAS is built by Israel Aerospace Industries and maintained by Airbus. The German Air Force has been using the Heron 1 system in Afghanistan since 2010 and in Mali since 2016.
Germany is expected to eventually switch from Heron 1 to more capable Heron TP models after first operators started training on the new models in January 2019. Germany expects to start flying the Heron TP in Mali by 2023.
The Heron 1 has a wingspan of about seventeen meters and a maximum mission duration of over twenty-four hours. Their mission is the detection of IEDs from the air, convoy and patrol unit escort, route exploration and supervision, creation of movement profiles and long-term supervision, support for status reports as well as object and camp protection rank among the military tasks. In addition, the system is also used for security and humanitarian support operations.
Germany is still debating the use of armed drones as the idea is still disputed in the country. Earlier this month, the German defense ministry hosted the most recent panel discussion on the topic, with the aim of informing a future Bundestag decision on armed UAS.