Elbit delivers the first two Hermes 900 UAVs to Switzerland.

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Elbit delivers the first two Hermes 900 UAVs to Switzerland.

The first two of Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 unmanned air systems landed in Switzerland late last month, bringing the country one step closer to launching operations.

The lead unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and two floor management stations were sent to Emmen air base on April 21 and 26, according to the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection, and Sports.

The jet – registrations D-11 and D-14 – will undergo intentional tests after their encounter with Elbit staff.

“They will undertake flight testing in the next months before being handed over to the air force in [the second half of] 2022,” it says. The Armasuisse procurement body will conduct the testing, with the first flight expected by the middle of the year.

The Hermes 900, also known as the ADS-15 reconnaissance drone system, was chosen by Bern in 2014, and an order was placed late the following year. This also includes the provision of assistance equipment and a simulator.

Following the acceptance of the first pair of surveillance planes by the Swiss air force, “the other four drones will follow before the end of the year.”

Once operational, the Hermes 900s will aid civilian companies such as the police with tasks such as army surveillance, search and rescue, border monitoring, and other missions.

The introduction of the new kind has taken far longer than anticipated: deliveries were supposed to be completed within a four-year period when Bern signed the contract in November 2015. Switzerland currently lacks a tactical UAV capability, having retired the final ADS-95 Ranger plane from Israel Aerospace Industries/RUAG in late 2019.

The medium-altitude, long-endurance Hermes 900, according to Elbit, has a maximum endurance of 36 hours when working at 30,000 feet. A 350kg (770lb) payload, as well as an electro-optical/infrared sensor and artificial aperture radar, can be carried by the type.

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