With no fewer than three on show, the Elbit Hermes 450 outnumbers any other machine type in the static park at Singapore ’08. The UAV has proved a major success for Elbit, with a number of important overseas sales, including to Singapore. The type has now logged more than 70,000 hours–mostly in operations supporting the Israel Defence Force. It can carry a 150-kilogram payload and flies at 16,000 to 18,000 feet. The three on display are a 450 that serves with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, another 450 with a new Wankel rotary engine and a 450B that is representative of the Watchkeeper vehicle for the UK armed forces.
New Engine for the Hermes
New for the Hermes 450 is Elbit’s own R902 engine, also known as the “W,” or “Wide,” powerplant. Based on Wankel rotary technology, the R902 develops more than 70 bhp for a weight of just 40 kilograms. Elbit claims that this represents the best power-to-weight ratio of any internal combustion engine. The R902 is also very efficient, allowing it to power the Hermes 450 on flights lasting more than 20 hours. Previously, Hermes 450s were powered by a 52-bhp engine of roughly similar weight. The “W” engine adds 100 kilograms to the mtow, which rises to 550 kg. The aircraft on display is configured with the El-Op Compass EO/IR/laser turret, and an Elisra AES-210V Elint suite. Elbit has developed a dorsal-mounted satcom antenna for the type, which can be rapidly fitted in the field.
Since February last year, the Hermes 450 has received certification for flights in civilian-controlled Israeli airspace, the first vehicle to achieve that distinction. For nonmilitary test flights the UAVs carry “4X” civil registrations and are fitted with civil-standard lighting systems. Voice communications are relayed from the ground control station via the vehicle itself.
The third subvariant on show here is the Hermes 450B, which forms the basis of the UK’s Thales-led Watchkeeper UAV system. The first Watchkeeper-configured air vehicle–slightly heavier than the standard 450 at 480 kilograms–is due to make its first flight next month.
For the time being, the 450B retains the original engine, but has other significant changes. The undercarriage is beefed up and the wing is attached directly to the fuselage rather than being mounted on a pylon. The changes were dictated by the need for extra structural strength to handle operations from semi-prepared rough strips, and to have the option of being catapult-launched. The vehicle on display is configured with the Compass turret and an I-Master synthetic aperture radar.
Along with the 450s, Elbit is showing the larger Hermes 900, first revealed last year and due to fly soon. The 40-hour endurance, 985-kilogram mtow vehicle can carry a 300-kilogram payload and has a large cargo bay in the lower side. At the other end of the UAV spectrum, the company has an example of its Skylark I hand-launched on its Stand No. N65.