Warplanes: The Hawk Circles Over Mexico


March 30, 2011: The U.S. recently revealed that it has been flying Global Hawk UAVs high over northern Mexico, to collect information on Mexican drug cartels. In cases like this, Global Hawk is using its powerful sensors to fill in for reconnaissance satellites, which are always in short supply. This surveillance was done in cooperation with the Mexican government, which has smaller UAVs on order. Actually, Mexico is getting the same model UAV that the U.S. Border Patrol has been using for the last seven years. This is the Israeli Hermes 450. Brazil has also bought this model, along with some 20 other nations. The Hermes 450 has day/night vidcams for surveillance, and almost as important, a communications relay that enables troops in remote areas (northern Mexico, and adjacent areas in the U.S., are thinly populated and difficult for radio equipment) to stay in touch with each other. Hermes 450 can stay in the air for 20 hours at a time and go as far as 200 kilometers from its base. Its max ceiling is 6,500 meters/20,000 feet and carries a max payload of 150 kg/330 pounds, has a wingspan of 11.1 meters/34.5 feet and length of 6.5 meters/20 feet. The Hermes 450 is the main tactical UAV of the Israel Defense Force. Global Hawk can fly three times as high as Hermes, and cover a lot more territory per hour in the air.

The half ton (450 kg) Hermes 450 is half the weight of the competing, one ton, Predator, but for many nations seeking to obtain (and failing because the U.S. military had priority on all new production) Predator, Hermes is adequate for their needs. Global Hawk weighs in at 13 tons.

Hermes 450 is cheaper than Predator, and it doesn't hurt that Predator was developed from Israeli UAV designs. Nevertheless, now that the U.S. Air Force is no longer buying the Predator (which has been replaced by the larger Reaper), the U.S. Border Patrol is buying Predators instead of Hermes 450s. There is now an unarmed civilian model of the Predator being marketed. The civilian version has been named Predator XP, in an attempt to identify with something that is old, reliable and still gets the job done.


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