Australian forces in Afghanistan have been revealed as the "confidential customer" for long-endurance unmanned aircraft services announced by Canada's McDonald, Dettwiler & Associates (MDA) on Sep. 1. Under Project Nankeen, Canberra has awarded a contract to MDA for the lease of IAI Heron UAVs, and signed an MoU with the Canadian Forces, which is already operating Herons in Afghanistan under a previous lease deal with MDA.
Photo: Australian Defence Force
MDA says its new customer's Herons will become operational in early 2010 for a period of one year, with options for an additonal two years. In July, Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army personnel undertook Heron training in Canada, and have now been absorbed into the Canadian Heron UAV detachment at Kandahar, says the Austrialian Defence Forces.
MDA was awarded Canada's Project Noctua in August 2008, and the Herons, designated CU-170s, become operational in Afghanistan in February. The contract is worth C$95 million for two years of deployed operations, with a C$35 million option for a third year.