Although the Israeli Hermes 900 UAV has been in service since 2012 it wasn’t until August 2017 that it finally completed all its acceptance tests. With the Israelis an aircraft can be in service for years before it is able to take and pass all of the tests for the capabilities and equipment it was designed to use. This is allows the new aircraft to get operational experience, often in a combat zone, so that the design can be tweaked and different accessories tried out under realistic conditions.
Currently over a hundred Hermes 900s are operational or on order for the Israeli Air Force and at least five export customers. Hermes 900, like other large Israeli UAVs, is also made available, via a British company, for lease and three of them arrived in Mali (Africa) recently to serve with a UN peacekeeping force.
Israeli aircraft manufacturer Elbit conducted the first flight test of the Hermes 900 in 2009 and it entered service in 2012 and saw heavy use during the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza. This Hermes 900 is similar in size (and appearance) to the American Predator (both weighing 1.1 tons), but the Israeli UAV is built mainly for endurance. The Hermes 900 can stay in the air for 36 hours and has a payload of 300 kg (650 pounds). This means that, with its cruising speed of 125 kilometers an hour, the Hermes 900 has a max range of 4,500 kilometers and a max ceiling of 9,100 meters (30,000 feet). That last bit is important, because one of the export customers is Switzerland and the good high-altitude performance was a key reason for the sale.
The Hermes 900 has a wingspan of 15 meters, length of 8.3 meters and max speed to 220 kilometers an hour. The 900 is basically a stretched and bulked up Hermes 450, which is a 450 kg (992 pound) aircraft, with a payload of 150 kg. It can also carry Hellfire missiles. The Hermes 450 is 6.5 meters (20 feet), long and has an 11.3 meter (35 foot) wingspan. It can stay in the air for up to 20 hours per sortie and fly as high as 6,500 meters (20,000 feet). The Hermes 450 is the primary heavy UAV for the Israeli armed forces and has been in service since the late 1990s.
The Hermes 900, like most UAVs, is sold as system package. Each Hermes 900 system consists of three UAVs, ground control and maintenance gear. Depending on accessories and (for export) the maintenance and training package each Hermes 900 system costs $15-20 million.