A. Pe’er, Hamodia Military Correspondent
YERUSHALAYIM – The German Federal Ministry of Defense and the Airbus Defense and Space company have signed a contract with Israel Aerospace Industries for the operation of Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use by the German air force in Mali, West Africa.
Airbus will operate the UAVs in similar to the way it has operated IAI’s UAVs for the German air force in Afghanistan since 2010. Under the new agreement, IAI will lease several UAV systems starting in November and until the beginning of 2018 for intelligence gathering purposes. The deal is believed to be worth in the tens of millions of dollars.
IAI explained that the background to the new deal was transferring responsibility for intelligence gathering from Mali to Germany. Up until now, these missions have been carried out by the military forces of the Netherlands.
The Heron 1 UAVS used by Airbus in Germany’s warfare in Afghanistan have accumulated over 27,000 flight hours, and were involved in thousands of missions.
IAI said that Airbus had selected its system for the missions it anticipates in Mali, among other things because of the extensive areas in which they will be operated, which requires UAVs capable of staying airborne for a long time and traveling for great distances.
Another substantial contract between IAI and the German military is reportedly in the pipeline. This €580 million agreement involves the operation of advanced Heron TP UAVs, IAI’s most advanced unmanned aircraft. In this deal, the UAVs will be leased until a new European UAV is developed, a program that will not be completed for several years.