Herons Operational in Mali

Germany announced its Heron I UAVs reached full operational capability in Mali on February 1, serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The declaration was made six months after the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support was tasked with getting the aircraft operational. The contract was signed in July 2016 when the Bundeswehr assumed responsibility for the intelligence unit in Mali from the Netherlands. Over 120 containers of equipment were sent to Mali from September, after which the first Mali-based Heron mission was flown in October, followed by the first operational mission from Gao airport on November 1. Germany’s Heron I deployment in Mali is due to continue until at least February 2018 and involves Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions, which is responsible for the provision, maintenance and overhaul of the system in Mali. Germany’s Heron 1 aircraft are leased from Israel Aerospace Industries under an arrangement similar to that in Afghanistan where the Heron I flew over 2,300 missions and 30,000 flight hours. The Bundeswehr said the Heron deployment to Mali has allowed the potential reconnaissance radius of the German MINUSMA force to increase from 80–900km (43–485nm). Guy Martin