The Hermes 450 UAV designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems has been acquired as a surveillance platform by at least 10 countries, including Singapore, but only the UK has requested major changes.
The $1.6 billion Watchkeeper program for the British Army has made Thales the biggest UAV company in Europe, and in its UAV systems laboratory, also known as the Soul battlelab near Bordeaux, the company’s engineers are exploring the requirements for future ground control stations and mission systems.
Israel’s Elbit Systems and French company Sagem Défense Sécurité agreed on September 15 to form a joint venture by early next year. To be based at Eragny and Montluçon in France, the joint venture will market UAV systems in France and other designated markets, and will take over existing initiatives.
Elbit Systems is showcasing a wide range of its products and capabilities here at Farnborough (Hall 1 Stand C14). Among them is CockpitNG, a new pilot interface system based on a 22-inch high-definition central display. All avionics components are integrated into a single suite employing touch-sensitive technology for ease of operation.
Hermes 90, the latest member of Elbit’s UAV family, is on show here at Paris for the first time. Its appearance comes shortly after the creation of a joint venture between the Israeli company and General Dynamics to promote the sale of unmanned air systems into the U.S., which Elbit now considers a “home” market.
Two new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs are due to make their first flights next year as European aerospace companies challenge the lead in this field established by Israel and the U.S. The BAE Systems Mantis technology demonstrator, unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in July, might become airborne as early as next month in Australia.
The Thales-led Watchkeeper program is on schedule for entry into service with British forces in 2010, having flown for the first time this year in Israel, where Elbit Systems designed and produced the Hermes 450 WK platform. Designated Hermes 450B, it will have a dual payload comprising gimbaled electro-optical/infrared cameras plus a laser target designator, together with a radar in a second gimbaled pod.
Officials from the UK’s up-and-coming UAV test airfield are negotiating here this week with several American companies who have expressed frustration with the lack of timely cooperation from their own Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Elbit Systems has been awarded a contract valued at some $20 million to supply Hermes 450 UAV systems to an unnamed European country. The order specifies both air vehicles and complementary ground systems, for delivery next year.\