9 Jun 2012

RAAF using Israeli drones in Afghanistan

8:03 am on 9 June 2012

Details have been revealed of how the Royal Australian Air Force deploys Israeli drones for battlefield surveillance and to target insurgents in Afghanistan.

Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra late last month that Australia is buying hours on the Heron drones from a Canadian company that in turn leases them from Israel Aerospace Industries, which is wholly owned by the Israeli government.

Israeli Herons first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009.

The ABC reports Australia has so far spent $A230 million operating 19 Herons.

They are the centrepiece of the ADF's rapidly expanding drone warfare capability that has so far cost an estimated $550 million.

The Heron can stay airborne for up to 24 hours, soaring to a height of 27,000 feet. It carries no weapons, but holds a sophisticated payload of sensors and cameras.

High on the Heron target list are insurgent spotters, who observe Australian troop movements and coordinate ambushes and the laying of roadside bombs.