Hermes 450 was selected by the Israeli and British forces to provide Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) services. In Israeli Hermes 450 is in operational use for about 10 years. Hermes 450 has already accumulated over 20,000 operational flight hours, mostly in combat service with the IDF, where it is used as the primary battlefield reconnaissance platform. The Israeli Air Force designation of the Hermes 450 UAV is “Ziq”. The version designed for the British Army is called WK450 Watchkeeper.
The WK450 Hermes derivative is expected to be fielded by the British Army as part of the Watchkeeper program around 2007. Both systems are using the same configuration of a high wing and V for optimal aerodynamic and mission performance. The aerial vehicle weighs 450 kg on takeoff, capable of carrying up to 150 kg of internal and external payloads. Sensors are comprised of EO/IR, synthetic aperture radar and electronic surveillance and communications equipment stored in the 300 liters payload bay and two outer gibmbals located in the lower fore and aft sections. Both vehicles use the UEL AR-801010 rotary engine with pusher propeller, delivering 52 hp at 8,000 rpm. The engine delivers 1.6 kw of electricity to power all avionics on board.
The Hermes has an exceptionally high payload to weight ratio – up to 33% or the 450 kg are payload. Hermes 450 carries a typical EO payload such as the COMPAS IVweighing 32 – 35 kg and a SAR, at around 40kg weight. The remaining weight is fuel, and supporting systems. The Hermes 450 can carry two payloads simultaneously. On extended missions, Hermes 450 can carry two external fuel tanks or equivalent stores. The extra fuel extends mission endurance up to 28 – 30 hours.
The information collected on a mission is transmitted via line-of-sight datalink to the ground station for processing and interpretation by the ground element, and rapidly processed through existing intelligence and communications to the users. The aircraft was tested with an over-wing satellite communication pod, which enables the aircraft to establish wideband datalink beyond-line-of-sight. Watchkeeper will support UK and coalition forces, including Special Forces, battlegroup command posts, attack helicopter formations, attack aircraft or battleships throughout the battlespace. The system is designed to be integrated with existing and future ISTAR capabilities, future command and effects systems over NATO common protocols.
UAV Tactical Systems Ltd. (U-TacS), a UK based joint venture between Elbit Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ:ESLT) and Thales UK, announced On June 7, 2007 it has been awarded a contract worth approximately $110 million by Thales UK deliver a Hermes 450 UAV unit to provide an urgent intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) support for the UK Armed Forces. The program will commence immediately and will take place over the next few years. The contract includes training of the UK MoD staff in use and maintenance of the system, and the provision of contractor logistic support (CLS) and program management services. Hermes 450 will be used supplemented by the Watchkeeper UAV system, as it becomes operational around 2010. Another new customer for the Hermes 450 is the Singapore Air Force, which announced plans to field a Hermes 450 UAV unit with the newly-established 116 Squadron, one of three squadrons operating under the Singapore Armed Forces Air Force newly established UAV Command. The Hermes will augment the Searcher UAVs in service since the 1990s.