The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for Germany has made its maiden flight, the manufacturer announced on 26 July.
Seen on its maiden flight, the Heron TP for Germany will serve as an interim MALE UAV solution through to the expected arrival of the European MALE RPAS in 2026. (IAI)
The milestone, which took place in Israeli airspace, came four-and-a-half years after the type was selected by the German Bundeswehr in early 2016 to fulfil its interim MALE UAV requirements.
The Heron TP will serve the Bundeswehr as an interim MALE UAV solution until the European MALE Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS; previously known as MALE 2020 and Euro MALE) system becomes operational in about 2026. The Israeli platform was chosen for this purpose, as leasing it does not require the full range of licences and other documentation that might otherwise slow down its entry into service.
Germany already fields three IAI Heron 1 UAVs in Afghanistan and Mali, and in January 2016 announced that it was to lease between three and five of the larger and more capable Heron TPs instead. These were supposed to be available to the Bundeswehr from 2018, but the project was delayed in part because of a protest from the rival competitor for the requirement, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
The agreement between the German and Israeli defence ministries was finally signed in June 2018.