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After ‘World’s Best’ Arrow-3 SAM Deal, Germany Confirms Flying Israeli Heron TP Drone For The First Time

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The German Air Force, or Luftwaffe, announced on May 15 that a German Heron TP unmanned aerial system (UAS) developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and European defense manufacturer Airbus took to the German skies for the first time.

The Luftwaffe Team wrote in German on Platform X: “Landed! Our German Heron TP was greeted on the ground with a powerful “shower.” Lieutenant General Günter Katz, Commanding General of the Air Force Troops Command, called the first flight an “important step into the future,” “a milestone for the team #Heron ” and an “unprecedented quantum leap in Europe”.” The text has been machine-translated.

The milestone, which was also formally announced by the Bundeswehr, saw the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in operation out of its future home base, Jagel, also known as Schleswig Air Base, in the far north of Germany.

The German Heron TP (GHTP) was awarded a type certificate by the German Military Aviation Authority in late 2022. The Israel-origin UAS has been tailored to the needs of the German Air Force. The GHTP is meant to fill the void left by the departure of the older Heron 1 UAS and the launch of the new European MALE UAS known as Eurodrone.

Officials noted that the drone’s maiden flight highlights the growing defense cooperation between Germany and Israel, which has been made possible by the work of Airbus, IAI, and the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D).

Impressed by the milestone, Boaz Levy, president and CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said, “The deployment of Heron TP (GHTP) RPAS in Germany signifies a milestone achievement for Israel Aerospace Industries, reinforcing its position as a leading provider of cutting-edge aerospace and defense solutions on the global stage. This collaboration sets the stage for continued innovation and collaboration in addressing the ever-evolving challenges in the defense sector.”

The manufacturer IAI describes the Heron TP as “a multi-role, advanced, long-range Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for strategic missions.” The drone has autonomous taxi-takeoff and landing systems (ATOL), SATCOM for long-distance communication, fully redundant avionics, and other features.

The Heron TP was created as a multi-mission vehicle capable of reliably carrying out a range of strategic missions, including target acquisition, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and surveillance, employing a variety of payloads. 

The GHPT, for one, is a strategic platform with the capability to carry a range of sensors. Not only does the system have the capability to do optical and imaging radar reconnaissance, but it also offers alternatives for additional signals intelligence (SIGINT) and maritime monitoring. While guaranteeing interoperability with NATO allies, the German Heron TP (GHTP) RPAS would allow the German Armed Forces to bolster their tactical capabilities.

German UAV: IAI's Heron TP makes first successful flight
German Heron TP: IAI

In 2018, the German Bundestag leased five Heron TP drones from Israel. According to former Defense Minister Von Der Leyen, the Heron-TP drones’ ability to fly long distances and produce photographs with higher video clarity would improve security for German soldiers. However, the Germans decided to arm their leased Heron TPs only in April 2022.

Germany also declared in April 2022 that it was buying 140 Heron TP armed drones from Israel, a move prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The purchase marks the first time the country has received armed drones after years of debate. Until this deal was signed, Germany was only allowed to deploy unarmed reconnaissance drones, unlike its other European counterparts.

That said, the German Heron TP drones have also become symbolic of a deepening defense partnership between Germany and Israel. For instance, the German Olaf Scholz government approved Israel’s deployment of two Heron TP combat drones in its offensive against Hamas last year.

Additionally, the Germans are also buying the Arrow missile defense from Israel in a high-profile deal.

Heron Mk2
Heron Drone

Israeli Arrows For Germany 

The Germans are currently in the process of buying Israel’s Arrow-3 air defense system.

Israeli and German officials signed a deal in September last year to move forward with the nearly €4 billion purchase of the Israeli- and American-developed Arrow 3 long-range air defense system.

Moments after German Defense Ministry head of procurement Annette Lehnigk-Emden and Defense Ministry Director General Eyal Zamir signed a letter of commitment, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hailed the signing as “a huge achievement for the defense industry” and “a historic day for our two nations that will help make German air defense fit for the future.”

While describing the Arrow as “one of the best systems, if not the best,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said, “It is, without exaggerating, a historic day for both our countries.”

Arrow 3 - Wikipedia
Arrow 3 – Wikipedia

“We see from the daily Russian attacks on Ukraine how important air defense is in general,” he added. “Air defense is essential, and particularly for us here in the center of Europe.”

The Arrow 3 system is known for its ability to destroy spaceborne projectiles, including ballistic missiles and their warheads before they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. The sale was authorized by the US in August last year and will be a component of the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative, which aims to strengthen the air defenses of continental Europe in the event of Russian bombing in Ukraine. 

The batteries—produced by Israel Aerospace Industries—are anticipated to start arriving in Germany by the end of 2025. Moreover, to increase the possibility of further additions to the agreement, the German government has set aside €5 billion from the €100 billion special fund it established to increase defense spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the Arrow system.

 

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