Australia and Canada have signed a cooperation agreement to introduce the Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the Royal Australian Air Force contingent operating in Afghanistan. “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” Australian Minister for Defence Senator John Faulkner said. According to Senator Faulkner, the Australian 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” the senator added.
In July 2009 the 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 Afghanistan, conducting combat operations in support of ISAF. A similar process was undertaken by the British Royal Air Force, deploying ground crews and UAV pilots to train and operate with the U.S. Air Force Reaper units in the USA. By transferring the Canadians’ operational knowledge, experience and facilities, the Australians are expecting to have their Herons operational by early next year (2010). This UAS will be Australia’s first MALE platform in Afghanistan. The French Herons are operated at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Germany will be operating the Herons from Mazer e-Sharif airbase in Northern Afghanistan by early 2010.
The Australian Defence Department has signed a leasing agreement with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) of Canada, in support of ‘Project NANKEEN’ in Afghanistan. The aircraft will be operated for a period of one year, with options for an additional two years. MDA has teamed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to operate the Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) on a similar program called ‘Project Noctua’, supporting the Canadian forces in Afghanistan.
Building on the previously announced successful Noctua Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) service for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, MDA and Israel Aeropspace Industries (IAI) will provide a similar complete turnkey operational UAV service under this new contract. The service will include complete operations, maintenance and logistical support, providing real-time, multi-sensor intelligence information, directly to the theatre of operation. “This contract expands MDA’s ability to provide advanced turnkey airborne surveillance services very quickly to customers with urgent deployed and domestic operational requirements.” said David Hargreaves, a vice president within the Information Systems Group of MDA. The Australian contract also provided an access to several Australian defense companies, including Geospatial Intelligence, Carbine Security Installations and Fujitsu Australia.