The German Army has contracted Rheinmetall Defence to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities by deploying the Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Afghanistan.

Under the contract, the company will operate the UAV system, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), for a year with two additional option years. Flight operations are scheduled to begin by mid-March 2010.

The Heron UAV is a multipurpose aircraft with a wide range of sensors and information systems to collect the data for intelligence analysis to help protect friendly forces during strategic and tactical missions in theatre.

The sensor package provided to the army includes a day and night electro-optical and Synthetic Aperture radar (SAR) payload.

The Heron will cover the whole area of operations covered by German International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops via satellite communications.

With a wingspan of 16.6m and a take-off weight of 1,200kg, the aircraft can reach an altitude of 30,000ft.

The contract is part of the German Army’s SAATEG interim solution programme established to provide wide-area real-time reconnaissance and surveillance data for German ISAF troops.