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The Drone Index: Elbit Systems Hermes 900

January 20, 2015

Israel Hermes 900 UAV 02 With the Hermes 900, Israeli unmanned aircraft systems are now on par with the US. This isn’t really surprising, since it was Israeli engineer Abraham Karem who designed the iconic Predator-series for General Atomics.

Even more impressive, the Hermes 900’s capabilities puts the original Predator A to shame.

The Hermes 900 is the successor of the bestselling Hermes 450, arguably the world’s most sought after UAS. Since its maiden flight on December 14, 2009, the Hermes 900’s qualities have raised it beyond peers and pretenders alike in the drone world.

Rather than another selection in a product line, the Hermes 900 also boasts of a combat record, albeit a recent one.

During the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) short war in Gaza last year the Hermes 900 proved its mettle. Whether it performed in an offensive role is a matter of speculation though.

Israeli Hermes 900 UAV

Via Elbit Systems

The Hermes 900’s appearance is conventional among MALE UAVs, with an elongated fuselage, upward rear vertical stabilizers, and a distinct nose come to house its satellite radar. Its recognizable features from below are a small frontal blister and what looks like a modular cargo bay. Different from other MALE UAVs is its retractable tricycle landing gear arranged so that the rear wheels fold into a section of either wing.

Specifications on its product brochure hint at exceptionalism. With a wingspan 49 feet wide and a body 20 feet long, the Hermes 900’s proportions are meant to support varying cargoes. Being 2,600 lbs heavy, depending on the mission the Hermes 900 manages an additional 770 lbs of gear.

The Hermes is an autonomous system, which means it performs automatic takeoff and landing on a runway. With its 115 horsepower Rotax 914 turbo propeller engine, the Hermes 900’s cruise speed reaches 100 kilometers per hour.

Where other MALE UAVs manages a ceiling of just 20,000 ft, the Hermes soars to 30,000. Its endurance is noteworthy too. Capable of staying airborne for 36 hours, the Hermes 900’s hardiness–at least according to Elbit–gives it an unlimited mission range even in challenging weather.

To heighten its appeal, the Hermes 900 is interoperable with its sibling the Hermes 450. Both can be flown at the same time from a universal ground station.

Designated a multirole unmanned system, the Hermes 900 isn’t suited for strike missions. But the possibility it could one day launch missiles at ground targets shouldn’t be dismissed. The features of its wings do suggest at least two hard points.

Its brochure also reveals it carries laser designators along with electro-optical and infrared cameras. Perhaps, given the right modifications, air strikes are indeed possible with the Hermes 900. Still, the Hermes 900 is best suited for intelligence gathering, communications jamming, geospatial missions, large area scanning, and persistent surveillance.

The Hermes 900, a maritime variant, and an even heavier configuration of it, are already available for export. Aside from the IDF, the Hermes’ 900 operator list includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. The Brazilian air force is an upcoming customer.

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