Bundeswehr Heron 1 : one year of flight ops in Mali

The Heron 1 UAV system, which is stationed at the Gao air base for the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) as part of the UN’s MINUSMA mission, logged its 3,000thflight hour in November 2017.

The system’s maiden flight took place in Mali on 1 November 2016 after the contract was signed in June 2016.

When added to the Heron 1’s operations for the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan, the Air Force’s UAV system has chalked up more than 38,000 flight hours.Both places of deployment are being managed using a joint operator model between the Bundeswehr and industry.

As with the Heron 1’s operations in Afghanistan, the provision, maintenance and repair of the system in Mali is the responsibility of Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen.

Three Heron 1 aircraft are stationed at the air base in Gao, located in northeastern Mali. Given its reconnaissance depth of up to 800 km, the Heron 1 system has significantly enhanced the German Air Force’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities. The reconnaissance results are then made available to the Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) for the MINUSMA mission, thereby contributing to the increased safety of all partners involved in the UN mission.

Reconnaissance tasks focus on the country’s crisis regions in order to provide the best possible protection for the country’s population as well as for the German troops and the contingents of other mission nations stationed in the country.

The operator model impressively demonstrated its performance capabilities during operations in Afghanistan and Mali, as emphasised by its proven high system readiness of well in excess of 90%. This is in addition to the system’s full compatibility and interoperability with Germany’s allies. The deployments of the Heron system in Afghanistan and Mali also help develop expertise within the Bundeswehr with a view to future MALE UAS.

Manufactured by the Israeli company IAI, Heron 1 is an unarmed medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS for the respective theatre of operations.

The aircraft has a wingspan of 17 metres and a maximum mission endurance of over 24hours. The system’s military tasks include detecting booby traps from the air, accompanying convoys and patrols, assisting forces in combat situations, reconnoitring and surveilling routes, establishing movement profiles and long-term monitoring, supporting situation assessments, and protecting property and military camps.The UAS is also used to support humanitarian missions.