Call it a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) or an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), the unmanned aircraft has become an integral part of the operations of many air forces, navies and armies around the world. Despite the issues associated with integrating UAV operations into non-segregated airspace, the unmanned aircraft has become a vital tool for performing “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions such as persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
Elbit Hermes 450
For years UAVs from the United States and Israel have dominated the larger end of the unmanned market, but now a number of new players have begun to emerge. While they have yet to threaten the dominance of the “big two,” newcomers from other countries are increasingly chipping away at the marketplace and threatening to take sales away from the established suppliers.
If you build it, they will come. The UK National Aeronautical Centre (Hall 1 Stand C9) has answered the first part of that challenge by making available the facilities to fly large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, in an environment that also accommodates manned aviation. The center now awaits a response from what is expected to be a boom market for commercial UAS.
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) awarded Israel’s Elbit Systems a contract to supply a Hermes 900 unmanned aircraft system (UAS), “which will be equipped with a new and advanced intelligence-gathering system considered a breakthrough operational solution,” Elbit announced on March 26.
The UK Ministry of Defence has finally signed off on the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air system for the British Army, awarding the system a formal Release to Service. The RTS award brings to an end a process to certificate the Watchkeeper for military service that has dragged on approximately three years longer than originally anticipated.
On static display at this week’s Paris Air Show was the Patroller, a new Male UAV that Safran subsidiary Sagem has developed from the German Stemme S15 motor-glider. Competing against the Thales Watchkeeper, Sagem will field the Patroller to meet a French Army requirement for 30 tactical UAVs. The Watchkeeper has generated more publicity, but Sagem is quietly suggesting that its long-winged contender is better.
On static display at the Paris Air Show is the Patroller, a new medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAV, which has been developed by Sagem from the German Stemme S15 motor glider. The Safran subsidiary will propose it for a French Army requirement for 30 tactical UAVs, and it will compete against the Thales Watchkeeper. The latter has received more publicity, but Sagem is quietly suggesting that its long-winged bird is better.
Elbit Systems announced new orders from home and abroad for its top-of-the-line Hermes 900-series UAV system. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) placed a follow-on order on December 31 last year, having first bought the system in 2010. The IDF has also funded some new features, including quick reconfiguration of payloads, in a separate contract placed in January worth $35 million. The company also sold a Hermes 900 system comprising multiple UAVs and ground stations to “a customer in the Americas.“
On October 6 Israel shot down a UAV over the northern Negev desert, south of Hebron and near the country’s nuclear weapons site at Dimona. The UAV entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean and was intercepted by F-16s from Ramon air base. According to Israeli media reports, the first Python missile fired at the drone missed, but a second was successful. The Israeli air force has released a video purporting to show the engagement.
Israel’s Elbit Systems announced a multimillion-dollar contract to supply its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to a “Latin American customer.” The buyer was identified in press reports as Colombia.
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