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German AF Crews Train on Heron TP Unmanned Aircraft in Israel

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Faster, Higher, Further...

(Source: German Ministry of Defence; issued March 20, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)

Germany will next year introduce the Heron TP unmanned aircraft under a wet lease with Airbus. It can fly for over 20 hours at an altitude of 12,000 meters, offering the Luftwaffe significantly better reconnaissance capabilities than its predecessor. (Luftwaffe photo)

The first twelve German soldiers completed Heron TP training in Israel. From 2020, the first German reconnaissance aircraft should be ready for operations.

There is an almost tangible tension in the air above Israel's Tel Nof Air Base south of Tel Aviv. After eight weeks of intensive training, the first six German pilots and six sensor operators have completed their training. "We received the system briefing and learned how to operate this modern aircraft," explains Wolfram Petri *, one of the pilots. He has learned flying unmanned flying from A to Z.

In future, although pilots for unmanned aircraft will still undergo normal basic training, just like any other pilot, they will then move to specialist training for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the technically correct term. So no longer need to train on Eurofighter, A400M or Tornado. "It helps us a lot because we need well-trained, specialized staff. And very quickly, not in three or four years," says Petri. After all, the Heron TP system will replace the Heron 1 deployments as soon as the first aircraft have been delivered to Germany.

There is a certain amount of tension in the air. The reason is less the upcoming graduation of the first student pilot, than the great media interest. Correspondents of German media stationed in Israel by ARD, ZDF, RTL, Süddeutscher Zeitung and FAZ have registered for the event. For the first time, they have the opportunity to show the drone and also talk to two of the graduates.

The HERON TP, which can be armed, represents a significant improvement in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles for the Luftwaffe. With much better reconnaissance technology compared to Heron 1, an altitude of over 12,000 meters and a doubling of endurance over the target area, HERON TP significantly strengthens the reconnaissance capabilities of the Luftwaffe. It will allow far-reaching operational and tactical deployment opportunities, greatly improving the protection of German soldiers in action.

The training course will take place twice a year, and the next is scheduled for October 2019. The advantage is that the Israeli partners have extensive experience and the appropriate airspace structure to be able to train optimally. Further classes of German soldiers will follow in 2021 and 2022.

Heron TP (TP for turboprop) belongs to the "Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)” category, and consists of ground stations, unmanned aerial vehicles as well as additional communication elements.

Five aircraft and four ground stations will be ordered by ADAS (Airbus Defense & Space Airborne Solutions) from the Israeli manufacturer IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries) and adapted to German specifications. Heron TP is not being purchased, but is provided under a service contract that includes maintenance and repairs.

The first Heron TP should be available at the end of 2019 with German markings.

* Names have been changed by the editors to protect people