Posts Tagged Hermes 900
Israel as been somewhat circumspect with respect to its use of drones in a number of attacks on its neighbours, though most people know that drones have been a significant part of its armed forces. Israeli drone companies have bragged about their drones being ‘combat tested’, without specifying in exactly which combat.
This changed with Operation Protective Edge, the brutal and murderous campaign against Gaza in the summer of 2014. In Protective edge 2192 Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli attackers, 504 of them children. Since then there have been many official acknowledgements of drone use.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that the Israeli military had been restructured to add more unmanned systems (drones). The Israel military has always been integrated with its arms industry, both supporting each other. After Protective Edge, the newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the ‘operation had offered the opportunity to showcase some of Israel’s technological advancements’. Ha’aetz reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were used in Protective Edge.
Defense News reported Israeli commanders praising the Hermes 900 as an improvement over the Hermes 450. Though Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones are widely believed to be armed, Israeli commanders didn’t confirm that. They did, however, praise the smaller Skylark drones, which streamed target acquisition information to ‘a myriad of shooters on the ground’.
i-HLS has reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were flown from Palmachim air base and were used round the clock in operations against Gaza. Hermes 900 also has a marine surveillance version that may be used in the ongoing campaign of harassment against Gaza fishermen.
Most of the drones (85%) used by the Israeli military are provided by Elbit Systems, according to IsraelDefense.
Israeli company Elbit Systems has embarked on a world wide campaign to sell its new Hermes 900 drone.
Successful use in war is often a strong selling point for military arms, and the maker of Hermes, Elbit Systems of Israel, is quick to point out that the Hermes 900 is part of the Hermes 450 family of drones and therefore shares its ‘combat-proven‘ qualities. The Hermes 900 drone is a larger version of the Hermes 450 which has been flown widely in Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine and in the service of Britain’s intervention in Afghanistan.
By using Hermes drones extensively, the UK government has become a silent partner with the marketing arm of the Israeli arms industry. This arms industry is a fundamental part of the occupation of Palestine, and the ongoing attacks on Palestinians by the occupation forces.
The Algemeiner blog reports that Hermes drones have flown more than half a million hours, or which 85,000 hours were flown by UK military in Afghanistan.That means 17% of the flight experience of Hermes drones has been with the UK military. Israeli arms merchants trade on this experience when they try to sell drones to other purchasers. (Not mentioned is that UK forces had 11 crashes of Hermes 450’s by 2011 and the Drones Crash Database has recorded other Hermes crashes worldwide)
Drones have long been a mainstay of the Israeli military, and while it rarely discusses its use of drones, some information has leaked out. Drone Wars UK has documented Israel’s use of drones in the occupation of the West Bank, and especially its attacks on Gaza in a report ‘Israel and the Drone Wars’.
Hermes 450 drones are used in Afghanistan under Project Lydian, through which Elbit and its partner Thales (of France) rented drones to the UK military, by the hour, while the military waited for the introduction of Watchkeeper surveillance drones. Obstensibly a UK built drone, Watchkeeper was based on the smaller Israeli Hermes 450 drone, manufactured and updated in Britain by Thales.
Watchkeeper drones were supposed to replace Hermes 450 drones in 2011, with a different set of operators as well, but the Watchkeeper programme was characterised by delays, and Thales eventually was forced to pick up some of the costs of operating the drone fleet in Afghanistan to compensate for the lateness. In January 2014 Watchkeeper still had not been introduced to Afghanistan, apparently, and the military was still using Hermes drones.
Meanwhile, Elbit is said to be producing one Hermes 900 each week, suggesting an inventory of more than 50 drones over the last year. Some of these have been sold to the Israeli military, and some sold to buyers in Latin America (Chile, Mexico, and Colombia) and elsewhere. Canada has considered buying the Hermes 900 as part of its languishing Project JUSTAS.
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.
Elbit Systems President Joseph Ackerman has described an important element of his company’s focus will be a ‘wide area persistent surveillance solution’ (WAAPS) a seamlessly integrated system of various sensors that allow a combat force to dominate a defined area. Apparently WAAPS would be focussed around Elbit Systems Hermes 900 drone or equivalent aircraft. WAAPS might involve as many as 25 airborne cameras, and remotely operated ground stations.
WAAPS would compete with the American WAAS system associated with the Predator drone, using about nine cameras and currently being used in Afghanistan.
WAAPS represents the explosion of surveillance systems associated with the development of the drones industry. Elbit Systems has been involved in providing surveillance systems used on Israel’s separation wall.