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After protracted talks, the German defense ministry's procurement arm, the BWB, has finally signed a contract with Rheinmetall to provide the Heron unmanned aircraft on a fee-for-service basis. The mission: support NATO forces in Afghanistan.[Photo: Rheinmetall]The lease agreement was crafted after German designs to buy either the Heron-TP or Predator UAV failed. The Heron is supposed to be fielded quickly to support Germany's Afghanistan deployment.The full-up acquisition program, SAATEG, is still to follow at some point. The size of the fee-for-service contract was not disclosed. The initial lease period is for one year, with an option to extend the deal for two years, says Rheinmetall. Operations are to start in March. Fielding the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron is a big leap in German unmanned aircraft capabilities, which up to now have largely focused on tactical or smaller systems.The Luftwaffe will have payload options in Afghanistan, including a synthetic aperture radar as well as the traditional electro-optical/infrared sensor.Germany joins Canada, Australia, and the French military in using the Heron in Afghanistan.
ar99, Heron, Luftwaffe, IAI
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