The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is all set to deploy the Heron TP drones that were earlier leased to Germany after reportedly receiving approval from the Olaf Scholz government, which has rallied behind the Israeli administration in its war against Hamas.
A defense source told German publication Speigel that the country has given Israel the go-ahead to employ two Heron TP combat drones in its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which launched a surprise attack on October 7, rattling the Israeli intelligence and military.
The German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, authorized Israel’s request to use the drones on October 11. He also noted that the 16 German trainee pilots were going home due to the Hamas attack. Germany has leased five drones approved by the Israeli defense contractor IAI (ISRAI.UL). At least two of them are still in Israel for drone pilot training.
An unnamed defense source confirmed the news to Reuters while also revealing that Israel had also requested flak jackets, medical supplies, and treatment for injured persons in German hospitals from Germany. The German Defense Ministry has yet to acknowledge the development officially.
The manufacturer IAI describes the Heron TP as “a multi-role, advanced, long-range Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for strategic missions.” The drone has autonomous taxi-takeoff and landing systems (ATOL), SATCOM for long-distance communication, fully redundant avionics, and other features.
German Defence Minister Pistorius:
Germany granted Israel's request to use drones Germany owns in fight to defend itself.
– Germany has approved Israel using two of its Heron TP drones in fighting against Hamas. pic.twitter.com/DPjce50gsN
— Clash Report (@clashreport) October 12, 2023
The Heron TP was created as a multi-mission vehicle capable of reliably carrying out a range of strategic missions, including target acquisition, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and surveillance, employing a variety of payloads. With drone warfare becoming more prominent, Israel may be considering using drones for spying and attacking Hamas in the densely populated enclave.
Although not officially confirmed, the German approval comes in the wake of solid military ties being forged by the two sides. The Germans are currently in the process of buying Israel’s Arrow-3 air defense system. Moreover, Berlin has also unequivocally condemned what it calls a “terrorist attack” by Hamas.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) started dispatching fighter jets to carry out retaliatory air strikes on the Gaza Strip shortly after the country was attacked. The visuals of the enclave have shown that it has essentially been reduced to rubble, with residential and administrative buildings, mosques, and universities all bombed in strikes that are continuing at the time of writing this report.
Attached is the footage of the overnight strikes in the Gaza Strip pic.twitter.com/S6p93GBrMg
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) October 12, 2023
According to the latest updates, more than 1,100 people have died in Israeli air strikes on Gaza, where Israel estimated its death toll at 1,200 people so far. On its part, Israel has pledged to go all out against Hamas and the Gaza Strip, claiming that these are “human animals” they are up against. The enclave has been placed under a complete siege.
It makes sense, then, that Israel is looking towards its partners in the West for military support. The United States, for one, has rushed in with munitions and dispatched its aircraft carrier group to be stationed close to Israel’s coast.
The approval by Germany on the Heron TP drones, if officially confirmed, may also be a step in that direction.
Germany Loves The Heron TP Drones
The German Bundestag leased five Israel-origin Heron TP drones in 2018, with the former Defense Minister Von Der Leyen saying that the Heron-TP could provide images with better video resolution and fly long distances, enabling better security for German soldiers. Only in April of last year, the Germans decided to arm their leased Heron TPs.
Shaken by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany also announced in April 2022 that it was purchasing 140 Heron TP armed drones from Israel. The purchase marks the first time the country gets armed drones after years of debates. Until this deal was signed, Germany was allowed to deploy unarmed reconnaissance drones, unlike its other European peers.
At the time of the big announcement, it was noted that the drones would be handed over to the German military in just over two years. According to the plan between the two sides, 60 drones would be earmarked for training, while the remaining 80 would be used for operational deployment.
“To counter the new threat, the Bundeswehr’s equipment must be upgraded without delay, particularly the arming of the Heron drones. The need is necessary because serious state interests of a political nature would be otherwise compromised, which is unacceptable.”
The total amount of the order for the Heron TP was estimated at US$166 million. The drones should be delivered within two years. The German defense ministry said last year that the drones will “contribute to the protection of soldiers on mission abroad.”
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