British Army capabilities in southern Iraq were significantly boosted since July this year when Hermes-450 (H450) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) began operating in the region. The UAVs have now been delivered to Afghanistan and both will ramp up to a full operating capability by February 2008, providing almost continuous ISTAR support to theatre troops over a large area. The British forces procured the services of these UAV as an interim capability, until the Watchkeeper UAVs are fielded.
In this contingency the UAVs owned by Thales UK are operated and maintained by 32 Regiment Royal Artillery. Contractors on deployed operations, supplied by U-TacS (a joint Thales and Elbit company) are providing support in theatre. Sofar H450 demonstrated a high safety record. To date, all take offs and landings have been successful, and no air vehicles have been lost.
According to Drew Carmichael, special projects manager at DE&S, the first in-theatre flight of H450 was conducted on June 14, 2007 and initial operating capability (IOC) was declared three weeks later. “Since then it has been delivering an average of 14 hours ISTAR output a day and has already surged to provide 24-hours of coverage in one 25-hour period.” Said Carmichael.