The German government has leased IAI’s Heron TP unmanned aerial system (UAS) pending budgetary approval in the latest chapter of the competition between General Atomics (GA) and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Last month, ADM reported that the UK chose to buy GA’s Protector drone, a variant of the famous MQ-9 Reaper.
In the latest development, Airbus and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) signed an operator agreement for the Heron TP UAS after receiving parliamentary approval.
The contract includes both the provision of Herons as well as all operational services required for the systems. In accordance with German budget law, the contract will become effective upon publication of the federal budget.
Heron 1 drones, which are currently deployed by the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali, are to be replaced with IAI’s latest Heron model.
The project will have a two-year set-up phase, followed by a seven-year operational phase. The UAS is intended to bridge the gap until a sovereign European drone is developed.
“This project will provide the Bundeswehr with an even more efficient system that will better protect soldiers in a wide range of threat situations as well as the at-risk civilian population,” Jana Rosenmann, head of UAS at Airbus, said. “The modular concept will allow us to provide the Bundeswehr with the capabilities it needs on time for the years to come.”
“We are thrilled and proud of this agreement with the Federal Ministry of Defence, a major strategic customer,” Shaul Shahar, IAI EVP, said.
The Bundeswehr will receive five weapon-capable aircraft, four sets of ground segments, training environments and all system operational services. The basic contract also includes preparing the drones for their use in future countries of operation.
The systems are equipped with electro-optic and infrared sensors and imaging radar systems to perform reconnaissance tasks. Satellite communication systems and German data and voice encryption systems are also part of the configuration.
The UAVs are also kitted out with a weather radar system so that they can operate in bad weather conditions.
Both the Reaper and Heron UAS are competing for Australia's Air 7003 program, which will provide RAAF with a medium-altitude long-endurance UAS as well as ground control stations.
The RAAF operated the Heron 1 (which was also used by Germany) in Afghanistan before retiring the platform in 2017.