The Israeli air force (IAF) is acquiring more unmanned air vehicles with advanced payloads to satisfy the growing demand for their services.
As an immediate step, the existing inventory of Elbit Systems Hermes 900 UAVs will be multiplied by six, the IAF announced on 19 December.
“This platform is a base for many operational technological abilities that will be integrated and [migrate] from manned to unmanned platforms,” Lt Col Daniel, IAF squadron commander, says.
The expansion, which was announced by the IAF on 19 December, will see the service “multiply the number of Hermes 900 UAVs that it operates by six during the coming year”. The IAF has not disclosed the number of Hermes 900s that it currently fields, and it is not clear if this announcement signals an intention to buy six times as many, or six more.
Known as Kochav (Star) in national service, the Hermes 900 made its operational debut for the IAF during Operation ‘Protective Edge’ over the Gaza strip in July 2014. It was tasked with gathering ISR data that was used for subsequent air strikes, and flew more than 100 times during this particular mission.
The IAF said that most details pertaining to the Hermes 900 are classified, but that it can carry a variety of payloads. Also operated by Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United Nations, the Hermes 900 has a maximum take-off weight of 970 kg, is able to carry a payload of 350 kg, can operate up to about 30,000 ft, and can stay aloft for up to 30 hours.