Germany is joining a growing list of NATO nations that are obtaining Israeli Heron UAVs for their troops in Afghanistan. A German firm is partnering with the Israeli manufacturer to provide maintenance services. The German Herons will become operational in Afghanistan in about four months.
Australian troops in Afghanistan begun using Israeli Heron UAVs two months ago. Last July, Australian troops went to Canada to receive training on the Heron, which Canadian troops have also adopted. Canada received its first Heron about a year ago. This model of the Heron is very similar to the 1.1 ton U.S. Predator. This Heron has a 500 pound payload capacity and can stay in the air for more than 24 hours per sortie. While Australia and Germany are buying its Herons, Canada is leasing them.
Last year, Canada also ordered half a dozen of the larger Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator B), which is the same size as Heron.
The Heron line of UAVs has been around longer than the Predators, and have a comparable track record. India and European nations have eagerly sought to buy various models of the Heron. The Heron TP is also suitable for maritime patrol, and is a low cost competitor to the Global Hawk, which has far more range than most nations need for their naval reconnaissance aircraft.
Heron is actually getting a lot of sales because the Predator manufacturer cannot keep up with American military and CIA orders. Israeli UAVs have a good reputation, although many nations avoid buying Israeli weapons because of the potential backlash from Arab oil suppliers. But in this case, politics is less important than providing their troops with an aircraft that has proved its ability to find an elusive enemy, and making it much more difficult to ambush your own troops. Israeli UAVs are used in 40 countries, and have a good reputation for reliability and effectiveness.