In preparation for its delivery to the German Armed Forces, the German Heron TP UAV has completed its first flight in the skies of the State of Israel. The UAV was modified according to the needs and requirements of the German Ministry of Defense.

It is the result of a joint program led by the UAV Executive Office in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, an Airbus Group company.

The nine-year agreement between the German and Israeli defense ministries was signed in June 2018 at a cost of $600 million for the leasing of a number of the UAVs, including training, operational support and maintenance throughout the term of the agreement.

Thirty-five teams of two Germans each are expected to undergo training with their Israeli counterparts at a special compound at Tel Nof. The program began last year.

According to reports in Hebrew media at the time of the signing, details of the deal included payment of approximately €720m. to IAI for the rental of the drones and another €180m. to be transferred directly to the government of Israel for the use of airports and other infrastructures that belong to the IAF.

The Heron TPs are IAI’s most advanced UAVs, with 40-hour endurance, maximum takeoff weight of 11,685 pounds and a payload of 2,204 pounds. They can be used for reconnaissance, combat and support roles and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets.

IAI first delivered the Heron-1 systems to the German Air Force in 2009. They became operational six months later. The UAVs have since been used extensively both in Afghanistan and Mali in collaboration with Airbus, which handles the upkeep of the drone.

The unarmed medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV has a wingspan of 16.6 meters and a mission endurance of 24 hours.

According to German media reports, the UAV is used for detecting booby traps from the air, assisting in combat situations, accompanying convoys and patrols, reconnaissance and surveillance, establishing movement profiles and long-term monitoring of threat actors, protecting military assets and camps, as well as supporting humanitarian missions.

The German Heron TP UAV is a medium altitude, long endurance, and multi-mission aircraft with a variety of payloads. It is based on the Israeli “Eitan” UAV, which is in operational use in the Israel Air Force. The German Heron TP UAV was modified in record time and incorporates advanced ‘blue-and-white’ [Israeli] technology.

It is the result of a joint program led by the UAV Executive Office in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development of the Defense Ministry, IAI and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, an Airbus Group company.

Head of the UAV Executive Office in the Israel Ministry of Defense, Col. (Res.) C:

“This is a significant and historic phase in the strategic cooperation between Israel and Germany: an Israeli-developed UAV, produced for the German Air Force, took off for its first flight in Israeli skies. Despite the various challenges we faced including those brought by the Corona pandemic, we are on schedule. This is thanks to the collaboration and great work done by elements of Germany and Israel’s defense establishments.”

IAI Executive VP and GM of the Military Aircraft Group, Moshe Levy:

 “IAI is pleased to mark this important milestone in the Heron TP project for Germany. We thank our partners in the Ministry of Defense and Airbus Group, for their cooperation in this project – a result of which we are going to provide the German Air Force with a system tailored to its operational needs and requirements.”

The UAVs are expected to serve as a stopgap measure for the German army before a European-based system is introduced.

Sources: Press Release; The Jerusalem Post

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