UK Hermes 450 drones have logged 30,000 hours in combat roles in Afghanistan, according to their ISTAR contractor, Thales. Thales has provided ISTAR services from 2007 until (possibly) April 2011 when UK Watchkeeper drones are expected to be introduced to Afghanistan.
Hermes drones were acquired from Elbit Systems of Israel. Elbit also supplies technology for Israeli’s ‘apartheid wall’, as well as exporting and leasing drones widely.
30,000 hours of use has been spread over about 2,000 sorties.
Watchkeeper drones are based on Elbit’s Hermes 450. Testing at Parc Aberporth in Wales has been delayed, which has delayed the introduction of Watchkeeper, and probably resulted in the Thales ISTAR contract being extended.
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It isn’t clear why the testing has been delayed. Was it due to problems of development or production? Was it due to problems getting permission to fly Watchkeeper in civilian air space?