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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Contract Extended for Israel Aerospace Industries UAVs Serving Australian Air Force in Afghanistan

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), part of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, will continue to utilize Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of Australia’s Project NANKEEN, in cooperation with the Canadian Defense Forces. Experts believe the contract could reach tens of millions of dollars.

Almost a year into the project, the Australian Defense Forces (ADF) have announced that they will continue to benefit from the essential operational capabilities the Heron UAV offers in Afghanistan for another year, starting in January 2011.

Project NANKEEN was made possible with the cooperation of the Canadian MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA).

Itzhak Nissan, President and CEO of IAI, said: “Thanks to their excellent technological capabilities and operational experience, IAI’s UAVs are considered among the best worldwide. This is reflected in the fact that their integral role in the war in Afghanistan has been extended.”

In August 2008 IAI and MDA were awarded a contract worth approximately $81 million USD by the Canadian Ministry of Defense to provide Heron UAVs as part of the Canadian NOCTUA project. Within only 5 months of the contract signing, Canadian forces were flying the Heron in Afghanistan’s skies.

Over the last three decades, IAI’s UAVs have been sold to more than 47 customers, including the Israel Air Force, the U.S. army, and armies in Asia and Europe. 6 armed forces are currently operating IAI’s UAVs in Afghanistan: Spain, Australia, the United States, Canada, France, and Germany.

As part of the German SAATEG program, German Air Force pilots are currently undergoing training at IAI’s facilities in Israel to receive special certification. Following the training, the pilots are sent to Afghanistan as certified Heron UAV system operators.

IAI’s UAVs have logged approximately 750,000 operational flight hours to date, over 15,000 of which were in Afghanistan.

The Heron UAV, which weighs one ton, is a medium altitude long endurance UAV designed for strategic and tactical missions. It can reach a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and can loiter for up to 40 hours.