The aircraft which can relay real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information, flew its last mission from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Tindal during Exercise Diamond Storm on June 23.
During the exercise, Heron completed 17 sorties in support of the Air Warfare Instructor Course in an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance electronic warfare (ISREW) role.
The aircraft had played a pivotal role in Air Force’s ability to deliver air-land integration effects in support of national security interests including in Afghanistan, where it completed more than 27,000 mission hours during Operation Slipper.
After its last operational mission from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on November 30, 2014, Heron then made history by flying in civilian airspace for the first time out of Rockhampton airport during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015. This led to the commencement of operations from its home base at RAAF Base Amberley in 2016.
From January 2010 to November 2014, 5FLT, operating as Task Unit 633.2.7, provided ISREW support to Australian forces and International Security Assistance Force partners in southern Afghanistan. About 500 personnel who were deployed as part of the task unit were recognised.
Air Force has regularly operated the Heron aircraft in restricted military air space from RAAF Base Woomera.
Australia leased two of these Israeli built RPAS from MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA) in 2009.
A replacement armed medium altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system capability is being acquired through Project AIR 7003 and is scheduled to be delivered after 2020. General Dynamics is offering its proven and widely flow MQ-9 Reaper, while IAI is pitching the Heron TP.
RAAF has taken steps to retain and further develop knowledge and experience, including embedding personnel in the US Air Force flying the MQ-9 Reaper. These personnel will form the core of the future ADF capability to be delivered by AIR 7003.
The 1.1 tonne Heron can conduct single missions in excess of 24 hours, with a maximum speed of more than 100 knots (180 km/h) at altitudes of up to 10,000 metres.