On Wednesday, Germany’s parliamentary committee approved a $600 million deal covering the lease of Heron TP medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which teamed in 2014 to bid for the deal with Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions.
The Germany-based Airbus unit will manage the programme, including all operational support. A budgetary rubber stamp is expected later this year.
Under the deal, Germany will receive seven Heron TPs, of which two will be used for training. They will remain in Israel when not required. A separate deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defence covers associated equipment, which may include the supply of weapons. The issue of Germany operating arms-capable UAVs has been the source of considerable domestic controversy.
Intended to run for nine years from the latter part of next year, the contract will provide an interim solution for Germany’s MALE UAV needs until a four-nation EuroMALE project is ready for service in the mid-2020s.
Drawing on experience with the Heron 1, the Heron TP is a much larger ‘strategic’ UAV powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop. It is operated by Israel as the Eitan, and has been bought by India. The German lease follows on from a successful collaboration between IAI and Airbus to lease and support the smaller Heron 1, beginning with operations in Afghanistan from 2010 that resulted in more than 2,300 missions being flown. In 2016, German Heron 1s began operating from Gao in Mali, after the Bundeswehr took over the intelligence commitment for the UN MINUSMA operation.