TEL AVIV — Germany has extended a leasing contract to operate the Israeli Heron-1 unmanned aerial system (UAS) for another year in support of ongoing operations in Afghanistan, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced Thursday.

IAI is the prime contractor for the medium-altitude-long endurance system.

Estimated at tens of millions of dollars, the contract concluded between the German Defence Procurement Agency and Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, extends Heron operations in Afghanistan until February 2018.

The German Air Force is operating the Heron-1 in Mali as part of a UN policing mission.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of IAI

In its Jan. 26 news release, IAI noted that its Heron-1 recently marked 30,000 hours in Afghanistan since the German Air Force began operating the system in 2010. The Israeli firm noted that over the years, its Heron UAS has supported Afghanistan operations by several NATO allies, including France and Canada. 

The German Air Force also is operating the Heron-1 in Mali as part of a United Nations policing mission.

"Our connection with the German Air Force is of course highly important, and we are proud to continue to provide an operational solution together with the excellent cooperation we have with Airbus," said retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Shaul Shahar, IAI's executive vice president and general manager of the firm's Military Aircraft Group. 

Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at

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