More Hermes UAV Progress for Elbit Systems
Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 is classed as a MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV, though it’s smaller than competitors like General Atomics’ MQ-1 Predator and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron. The Hermes 450 is best known for serving as the basis for Britain’s Mk450B Watchkeeper program, which is currently Europe’s largest; meanwhile, the standard Mk450 version is serving as an interim contracted UAV with British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Hermes 450 also serves in Israel, where it has achieved civil registration, and has been sold to a number of other clients. The nation of Georgia is one such, and the UAV made news again in April 2008 when a Russian MiG-29 shot down a Georgian Hermes 450. The drone was flying inside Georgian air space, very close to an international airway with civilian traffic. Despite this incident, the UAV’s record in Georgia is prompting strong interest in the drone from neighboring Azerbaijan. That Central Asian country is facing similar problems involving a seceding province that’s supported by the Russian government and military.
Back in Europe, Elbit Systems recently announced [PDF] a $20 million order from “a European country” for Hermes 450 UAVs, to be delivered in 2009 along with their accompanying ground control and display systems. The company also expects to test-fly its Predator-sized Hermes 900 model in late 2008 or early 2009, after a delay of almost a year.