The German request for these special weapon systems is based on their compatibility with the existing systems carried by this UAV. The Heron TP UAV leased by Germany from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is a modified version that complies with European regulations. The main changes have been made to the UAV’s avionic system. Manufactured by IAI, the Heron TP is the largest UAV in their lineup.
The agreement between the defence ministries of Germany and Israel, signed in June 2018, encompasses the leasing of several UAVs along with maintenance and training services. As part of the agreement, personnel from the German Air Force have undergone training at an IAF base in central Israel.
The leased UAVs, which will be in service for nine years, have the capability to carry unique air-to-ground weapon systems, as stated by German sources. According to the German Defence Ministry, these weapons have the ability to change their trajectory to avoid causing harm to civilians.
The decision to arm the MALE UAV sparked internal debates in Germany before the deal was approved. During negotiations, various options for using Israeli-developed weapons were considered, as per German sources.
The IAI Heron TP is a multi-role, advanced, long-range Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV designed for strategic missions. It features automatic taxi-takeoff and landing systems (ATOL), satellite communication (SATCOM) for extended range, and fully redundant avionics, among other capabilities. The Heron TP is built to address the needs of local and international customers, performing a variety of strategic missions such as intelligence gathering, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance using different payloads, ensuring a high level of reliability.
Following the removal of the gag order by Israel on the use of armed UAVs, it has become public knowledge that the Heron TP is employed in attack missions. The Heron TP has a length of 14 meters, a wingspan of 26 meters, and a maximum takeoff weight of 5670 kg. It is capable of carrying a payload weighing 2700 kg. With a maximum ceiling of 45,000 feet, a maximum speed of 220 knots, and an endurance of 30 hours.