Warplanes: Israeli UAVs Go East


May 30, 2007: Singapore has joined Israel, Britain and the United States as a major user of the Hermes 450 UAV. Costing two million dollar each, the dozen 450s will join 40 smaller Searcher II UAVs, to form a three squadron Singapore UAV command.

Singapore had been using the smaller (Israeli made) Searcher II, which could only stay in the air for 16 hours, and carried a smaller payload. The 450 can carry a radar, which Singapore needs for maritime reconnaissance in its extensive (because the country is a small island) territorial waters.

Last year, Britain adopted two new models of UAV, the Watchkeeper 180 and the Watchkeeper 450. Both UAVs are based on Israeli designs (the Hermes 180 and 450). The two Watchkeepers were supposed to be ready for service in 2005, but various problems delayed that, and now these aircraft are not expected to enter service until 2010.

The Watchkeeper 450 is a 992 pound aircraft, being equipped to carry Hellfire missiles for support of troops in Afghanistan. This UAV is already designed to carry two extra fuel tanks under its wings. Each of these fuel tanks weighs more than the 110 pound Hellfire. Total payload for the 450 is about 330 pounds. The Watchkeeper 450 is 20 feet long, with a 35 foot wingspan. It can stay in the air for up to 20 hours per sortie, and fly as high as 20,000 feet. The nearly identical Hermes 450 is the primary UAV for the Israeli armed forces, and they were heavily used (over twenty in action each day) during last years war in Lebanon.

In the United States, two Hermes 450s operate along the Arizona/Mexico border for the U.S. Border Patrol. The two UAVs are equipped with day/night sensors for surveillance, and a communications relay payload to link up agents deployed in mountainous terrain. With a maximum mission radius of 200 kilometers, the 450 is one of several surveillance tools being used to watch the border.


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