Germany’s first Heron TP UAV takes flight

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced on July 26 that its first Heron TP unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the German Air Force had completed its maiden flight in Israeli airspace.

Germany will lease five examples of the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS to serve as an interim solution until 2026, when the European MALE Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) begins operations.

German Heron TP [IAI]
Germany will lease five Heron TPs until the European MALE RPAS becomes operational in 2026. IAI

Although these five aircraft are based on the Israeli Air Force’s Heron TP ‘Eitan’ UAS, each has been modified to fit the needs and requirements of the German armed forces.

In June 2018, the Israeli and German defence ministries, Airbus and IAI signed the operator agreement for the leasing of the Heron TPs, along with associated maintenance and training services.

Col C, head of the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s UAV Executive Office, said: “This is a significant and historic phase in the strategic cooperation between Israel and Germany: an Israeli-developed UAV, produced for the German Air Force, took off for its first flight in Israeli skies.

“Despite the various challenges we faced, and with [coronavirus] challenges added on top, we are on schedule. This is thanks to the collaboration and great work done by elements of Germany and Israel’s defence establishments,” he added.

German Heron TP [IAI]
Germany's first Heron TP MALE UAV conducts its maiden flight in Israeli airspace in July 2020. IAI

In recent months, German Air Force personnel have trained on the Heron TP with their Israeli counterparts at an IAF base in central Israel.

According to AirForces Intelligence data, the German Air Force already operates the Heron I UAS – the predecessor to the larger TP variant. As of August 8, 2020, the air arm operated six examples of at least 11 delivered. The first Heron TP is expected to enter service in 2021.