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Arie Egozi

The first HERON TP UAV to be leased to the German Armed Forces performed its first test flight in Israel last week. Under a joint programme consisting of the Israeli MoD, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Airbus, the aircraft was modified according to the needs and requirements of the customer. The agreement between the respective ministries was signed in June 2018 and outlines the leasing of a number of UAVs as well as maintenance and training services. Over the last two years, German crews have been instructed on the operation of the HERON TP by an IAF squadron operating the aircraft from Tel-Nof airbase.

Debate

The contract is for the lease of seven aircraft to support German operations in Africa and Asia, with the lease starting for a period of nine years, with the aircraft be capable of carrying “unique air-to-ground missiles”, according to German sources, which are capable of aborting their trajectory towards the target in case civilians may be under threat. German sources have said that during the negotiations “several options to use Israeli developed weapons have been evaluated” though at this point, there is no decision to arm the UAV.

Heron TP is a multi-role, Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV for strategic missions, equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing systems (ATOL), satellite communication (SATCOM) for extended range, fully redundant avionics and more. The aircraft is 14 metres long, has a wing span of 26 metres and a maximum takeoff weight of 5,670 kg. It can carry payloads up to 2,700 kg with a max ceiling of 45.000 feet, top speed is 220 knots and endurance of 30 hours.