Heron 1 UAV

The Swiss Air Force is set to conduct in-flight evaluations of two Israeli medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as part of its acquisition plans of a new reconnaissance system (ADS 15) in September and October 2012.

A project team comprising the air force and Swiss armaments agency, Armasuisse, will conduct flight trails of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron 1 and Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 UAVs in central Switzerland and in the Jura region.

The two drones were short-listed by Armasuisse,after 11 potential systems were evaluated for the programme in May 2012.

The final selection is anticipated in the first half of 2014, and the purchase will be included in the 2015 Armaments Plan.

The air force currently operates an ageing RUAG Aviation’s ADS 95 Ranger tactical UAV system (TUAV) for reconnaissance, search and rescue (SAR) missions.

Built by IAI, Heron 1 is a MALE UAV system designed primarily to conduct all-weather day-and-night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions for a duration of up to 52 hours.

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The drone is equipped with advanced avionics, high-resolution, pivotable infrared TV camera, detection capabilities and communication systems and a fully automatic take-off and landing capability.

Heron 1 is currently in use with the Israeli, German, Turkish and Indian air forces.

Derived from Elbit’s combat proven Hermes 450, the Hermes 900 is an advanced, highly versatile UAS intended for conducting MALE tactical missions, such as reconnaissance, surveillance and communications at a maximum altitude of 30,000ft.

Weighing 970kg, the UAS has an endurance of over 30 hours, and can also be configured to perform area dominance, persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations.

Image: A Heron 1 UAV during flight at Naval Air Station in Nevada, US. Photo: courtesy of SSGT REYNALDO RAMON, USAF.