WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The German armed forces have decided to lease the Israeli-made Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle to support its troops during deployment.
The Heron TP was manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, and is a follow-up to the Heron 1 UAV, which has been used by German forces in Afghanistan. Germany selected the Heron TP over the U.S.-made General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The lease is a temporary fix until 2025, when a Germany-led European coalition including France, Italy and Spain will have a new UAV of their own.
German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen announced the selection at a press conference in Berlin, saying contract negotiations are ongoing.
The Heron TP is a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV able to operate for 52 hours at a time, depending on the payload. The variant distinguishes itself from the Heron 1 by being armed in addition to carrying out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
"It will go to a weapons-capable drone, which is standard for the future," von der Lyen said of the roughly $650 million budgeted for the UAVs and associated weapons. "It is important for the protection of servicemen and women."
The lease will include between three and five Heron TPs along with munitions. The UAVs will be stationed in Israel for training purposes, and later relocated to a German air base. Deployments are scheduled for 2018.
The aircraft is used by a number of militaries around the world, including Canada, Brazil, Australia, Turkey, and the United States.