Hemmed in by falling defense budgets and increased competition for its drones in Europe and North America, Elbit Systems has been stepping up its sales efforts in South America.
It has been doing this despite widespread criticism in South America of Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories and support for Palestinian statehood.
The Hermes 900 is a larger ‘Predator sized’ version of the Hermes 450, and is capable of carrying a larger ‘payload’, including weapons.
The first South American country to purchase the Hermes 900 was Chile. Indeed, Chile was the first country anywhere outside Israel to purchase the Hermes 900. When Elbit announced last week that it had made another sale of the Hermes 900 in the Americas speculation was that the buyer was Mexico. Mexico already operates Hermes 450 drones. But now it appears certain that the purchaser was Colombia.
The $50 million sale will provide Colombia with only two Hermes 900 drones, which apparently is intended for use by the national police service (although the original press release stated that the drone was for ‘perimeter security missions’.
Colombia was one of the countries that helped to block the recent Palestinian statehood bid by stating its intention to abstain from voting.
It is uncertain how the Colombian police force will use a large drone capable of flying at very high altitudes, for long periods of time. Nor is it certain whether the sale will include a contract for training Colombian pilots to fly the drone, or where this training will take place. Finally, there is no indication at this time whether the Hermes 900 drones sold to Colombia will eventually be armed.