January 13, 2009 -- The first Australian-leased Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has started initial operations supporting Australian, Afghan and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Under Project Nankeen, the Defence Materiel Organisation has signed a contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd (MDA) to provide Heron Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) services which will deliver high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability supporting ADF and ISAF operations in southern Afghanistan.
Heron uses leading edge technology to boost force protection by providing ground commanders with live situational awareness.
Heron’s long endurance characteristic enhances the ADF’s operational ISR capabilities in Afghanistan, currently provided by Air Force AP-3C Orions and Army’s Scan Eagle tactical UAV.
For the past five months, an Air Force-led ADF detachment has been preparing for the delivery of the Australian Heron UAV, by working with the Canadian Heron detachment in southern Afghanistan, drawing on the Canadians’ operational knowledge, experience and facilities.
The Australian Heron detachment has been drawn from many parts of Air Force and Army. It includes UAS pilots, payload operators, intelligence officers, imagery analysts, engineers, administrative and logistics personnel.
Personnel from the Heron detachment are continuing to hone their skills with ISAF personnel. The initial training program provided Australian personnel with the theatre qualifications to conduct operations and provide support for our troops on the ground.
The Initial Operating Capability has been achieved and development of the full capability is ongoing. The Heron is expected to be fully mission capable in the coming months.
Heron is a one tonne aircraft capable of medium altitude, long endurance flights. It was selected after a detailed examination of off-the-shelf, low risk ISR systems available to be quickly deployed to Afghanistan. The Heron contract is for an initial one year period of operations, with an option to extend.
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