It was clear by 2008 that the flow of information supporting counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan needed to grow in both quantity and quality. As a result, the Canadian Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Detachment, known as Task Force Erebus, deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.
“Task Force Erebus is unique in what it has brought to the battle-space,” said Colonel Al Meinzinger, the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing commander. “The efficient gathering of information and increased battle-space awareness that the Heron team provided since the beginning of operations in January 2009 has helped to enable the counter-insurgency campaign and has also served to save soldiers lives. We are very proud of the TF Erebus efforts.”
TF Erebus ended its flying operations on July 7, 2011, with the end of the Canadian Forces combat mission in Kandahar Province.
“The CU-170 Herons were flown extensively throughout the Task Force Kandahar area of operations and brought a high level of situational awareness to the mission,” said Col Meinzinger. “The skills and knowledge that we have acquired can be exploited in the future. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen who worked with TF Erebus over the years acquired a high level of proficiency due to their professionalism and dedication.
“TF Erebus has been [staffed with] members from across many Canadian Forces wings and bases, and I am extremely proud of all these team members because they have formed a cohesive team.”
By the end of operations, TF Erebus was credited with 837 flying missions. The task force achieved several milestones during the last rotation of personnel, including a mission of more than 30 hours, the longest flight undertaken by a Canadian Heron crew, and an unprecedented stretch of 116 hours — just shy of five full days — of continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage.
Over 30 months of operations, TF Erebus flew a total of 15,000 operational hours with only 198 personnel distributed over five rotations.
The team received excellent support from McDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), the company from which the Herons were leased. MDA began operations in the challenging environment of Afghanistan on very short notice and 19 of their personnel who rotated through Kandahar received the General Service Medal. The medal is Canadians and allied forces serving with the CF as well as – depending on the operation – Canadians who are not members of the CF, who serve outside of Canada to provide direct support to the CF and its operations in the presence of an armed enemy.