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Australia extends Heron mission in southern Afghanistan

A Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft is towed to the flight line in preparation for a mission.

Australia’s Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) deployment to Afghanistan has been extended providing high resolution Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) support until July 2014.

The Heron RPA has been providing ISR support to missions in Uruzgan province and southern Afghanistan since January 2010.

As Australia’s presence in Uruzgan comes to an end, the Heron detachment will shift focus to support coalition operations in Regional Command South during the final period of transition of security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan elections scheduled for 5 April next year.

The Heron RPA will be based at Kandahar Air Field, and will provide ISAF’s Regional Command South with a highly capable system over the coming months.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown, AO, said that the Heron has provided Air Force with experience and knowledge essential for the use of unmanned platforms in Air Force’s future fleet.

“The Air Force has gained immense experience in the use of unmanned aerial systems during the campaign in Afghanistan. The extension of the Heron deployment until July 2014 will continue this important capability,” Air Marshal Brown said.

The Heron RPA is capable of medium altitude long endurance flights, using multiple sensors simultaneously to provide high resolution ISR capabilities. Heron RPA can conduct operations in excess of 24 hours, with a maximum speed of more than 100 knots (180 km/h) and at altitudes of up to 10,000 metres.

The Australian Heron Detachment has included personnel from the Air Force, Army and Navy of various specialisations including pilots and Air Combat Officers, payload operators, intelligence officers, imagery analysts, engineers, administration, logistics and other specialist staff.