Minister for Defence Senator John Faulkner today announced that the Royal Australian Air Force has acquired Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in close collaboration with Canadian Defence forces.
“This high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability will enhance the capability of Australian forces in Afghanistan,” Senator Faulkner said.
The Heron UAV is a one-tonne aircraft capable of medium altitude, long endurance flights.
Under Project NANKEEN, the Defence Materiel Organisation has signed a contract with Canadian company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) to lease Heron UAV services which will provide high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability.
The Australian Defence Force has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Forces which already operates Heron UAVs in Afghanistan.
In July 2009 Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army personnel undertook Heron training in Canada. These personnel have now been absorbed within the Canadian Heron UAV Detachment at Kandahar airfield conducting combat operations in support of ISAF.
This has meant the ADF has rapidly established its Heron capability by drawing on the Canadians’ operational knowledge, experience and facilities.
“The Australian Government greatly appreciates the assistance of the Canadian Defence Force in this project,” Senator Faulkner said.
When the systems acquired through the NANKEEN contract are delivered to Kandahar, Australia will establish its full Heron detachment of Air Force and Army personnel.
“Air power of the future will involve a balance of manned and unmanned platforms. In particular a long endurance UAV can enhance force protection by providing ground commanders with real time intelligence,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The experience that Air Force gains in operating long endurance UAVs in Afghanistan will also help shape the development of unmanned Defence capabilities for Australia through the next decade,” Senator Faulkner said.
Heron can conduct operations in excess of 24 hours, with a maximum speed of more than 100 knots (180 km/h) and at altitudes of up to 10,000 metres.
This leading edge technology is operationally proven and provides Australia with an essential capability. It also allows Australian Defence Industry involvement, with companies including Geospatial Intelligence, Carbine Security Installations and Fujitsu Australia.