Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Israeli Air Force Bets On Hermes 900

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) next year will start fielding Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft after becoming the launch customer for the system.
Under a $50 million contract, Elbit will supply several Hermes 900 UAVs as well as some advanced models of the Hermes 450 (“Zik”), which has been the linchpin of the IAF’s UAV force since 1999. The IAF will have to wait several months for the new system, however, since development tests have not been completed.
With a maximum takeoff weight of 1,100 kg. (2,400 lb.), the Hermes 900 can accommodate payloads of 300 kg. and provide 40 hours of endurance, doubling the payload and endurance capabilities of the Hermes 450. It uses a similar push engine system and tailplane design like the 450, but is designed to deliver much greater operational range.
“The Hermes 900 is designed for maximum commonality with existing Hermes 450 infrastructure, such as the Hermes 450’s universal ground control station,” Shimon Sarig, COO of Elbit’s UAVs Division, tells AVIATION WEEK. As a result, the IAF will deploy the new platform with its existing Zik 166 Squadron.
Elbit has been marketing the Hermes 900 since 2007 as a multimission system, capable of carrying multiple payloads such as electro-optical Digital Compact Multi-Purpose Advanced Stabilized System IV (D-CoMPASS) built by Elbit subsidiary ElOp; Israel Aerospace Industries Elta’s EL/M-2055 synthetic-aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) radar, or Thales’ I-Master GMTI/SAR radar; Elisra’s AES-210/V Emerald Electronic Support/Electronic intelligence system; and Tadiran Communications’ SKYFIX communications intelligence/direction-finding package. Its large payload compartment could accommodate SatLink communications, providing beyond-line-of-sight operational capability.
The vehicle has a wingspan of 15 meters (50 ft.), a single 78.3 kW (105 hp) Rotax 914 F turbocharged four-stroke engine, and is designed for automatic takeoff and landing. “The Hermes 900 also provides an improved flight envelope, with a maximum operating altitude of 33,000 ft. and a greater speed than the Hermes 450,” Sarig says.
Following its first flight in 2009, the Hermes 900 has performed 25 test flights, with additional flights scheduled throughout the year. “The IAF selection is a good indicator for the maturity of the system,” Sarig argues.
In recent years the IAF has been bolstering its UAV fleet with an emphasis on long-range capabilities, foreseeing a potential conflict with Iran.
IAI’s Heron (Shoval) UAVs replaced the older Searcher Mk II in squadron 200; the Hermes 450 fleet was reinforced with several dozen systems, and the first 4,000 kg. high-altitude/long-endurance Eitan (Heron TP) UAVs were received earlier this year (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 22). “Today’s UAVs can replace manned platforms in many missions,” an IAF source says.
While Elbit and the IAF present the Hermes as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, the IAF is also known to have weaponized UAVs — a role the military has not officially acknowledged.
Elbit was initially aiming to develop another Hermes variant for longer range and higher altitude — the Hermes 1500. But the program was abandoned after facing export difficulties due to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which limits the sale of some cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.

BY: AviationWeek.com

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