(NSI News Source Info) PARIS, France - June 18, 2009: Germany plans to buy Israeli unmanned spotter aircraft for deployment in Afghan airspace from the beginning of next year, the German Defense Ministry said. The Heron or Machatz-1 is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed by the Malat (UAV) division of Israel Aerospace Industries. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) operations of up to 52 hours' duration at up to 35,000 feet. It has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight, but the effective operational maximal flight duration is less, due to payload and flight profile. There is a new version, Heron TP, also known as Eitan (UCAV). On September 11, 2005 it was announced that the Israel Defence Forces purchased US$50 million worth of Heron systems. The IDF's designation of the Heron is Machatz-1.
Heron can carry an array of sensors, including infra-red and visible-light surveillance, intelligence systems (COMINT and ELINT) and various radar systems, totaling up to 250 kg. Heron is also capable of target acquisition and artillery adjustment. The payload sensors communicate with the ground control station in real-time, using either direct line of sight data link, or via an airborne/satellite relay. Like the navigation system, the payload can also be used in either a fully pre-programmed autonomous mode, or manual real-time remote operation, or a combination of both. Negotiations will start with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., the state-owned maker of the drones, and Rheinmetall AG, the Dusseldorf-based company that would adapt them for use in the German armed forces, the Berlin-based ministry said today in an e-mailed statement. “Being up to date is of decisive importance for our mission,” Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said in the statement. “It improves our ability to decide and act and most of all we’re improving the protection for our soldiers.” Germany opted for Israeli technology over that of the U.S. or Europe. Boeing Co., the second-largest U.S. defense contractor, is the maker of ScanEagle drones, while European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. is still developing its Barracuda drone. Germany, in choosing IAI’s Heron 1 system, decided to use “a readily available unmanned aerial vehicle” for Afghanistan, the ministry said. IAI, which also makes satellites, may sell shares to the public to pay for expansion abroad if the company can overcome government reluctance, Chairman Yair Shamir said in an interview at the Paris Air Show. IAI wants to invest more in Latin America, where it has a joint venture with Brazil’s Synergy Group, and Asia, where it’s working with Tata Advanced Systems of India, Shamir said today. Germany has about 3,380 troops in Afghanistan, the third biggest military contribution after the U.S. and U.K. to NATO’s efforts to combat Taliban insurgents. Predator drones, the most widely used drones by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, are made by closely held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego.