The German government has approved the release of funding to lease an additional Heron 1 UAV to aid UN operations in Mali, bringing the in-country total to four, as well as securing the use of a third ground control station.
Announcing the decision in a May 5 release, the German MoD stated that the combination of four Heron UAVs and three ground control stations would permit the deployment of two systems simultaneously, as well as providing a reserve capability to accommodate scheduled or unscheduled downtime.
The new operating contract with Airbus Defense and Space Airborne Solutions will run until the end of April 2024. Airbus is responsible for the provision, maintenance and repair of the Heron 1 and the ground control stations, while flight operations are carried out by the German Armed Forces.
The decision by the German government to release funding for an additional aircraft follows a request by the UN in March 2020 for an increase in aerial reconnaissance capacity for its MINUSMA mission, which is combatting a growing insurgency in the country.
Germany first began operating Heron UAVs in Mali in 2016 and had by July 2020 logged more than 11,500 flight hours in over 1,200 operational flights.