January 27, 2012: The second export customer for the Israeli Hermes 900 UAV is also the second South American nation to buy the aircraft. Colombia is buying at least half a dozen Hermes 900s. Last year, Chile became the first export customer for the UAV, and the year before that Israel became the first buyer.
It was only three years ago that Israeli aircraft manufacturer Elbit conducted the first flight test of the Hermes 900. This UAV is similar in size (and appearance) to the American Predator (both weighing 1.1 tons) but the Israeli vehicle is built mainly for endurance. It has a 10 meter (31 foot) wingspan. 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. Thus the Hermes 900 could fly to Iran (1,500 kilometers distant), do some reconnaissance, and return. Although the 900 has a quiet engine it is fairly visible, even at its highest altitude (nearly 10,000 meters/30,000 feet). So a trip to Iran and back is unlikely, even if it is quite possible. Chile will use two or more Hermes 900s for reconnaissance along the coast. Chile has a 4,630 kilometer long coastline but is only 430 kilometers wide. In effect, Chile occupies the southern half of the South American Pacific coast. Patrolling that has always been a chore and usually just wasn't done much. The southernmost area, ending in the Drake Passage at the southern tip of South America, has very rough weather. So a Hermes 900 could patrol most of the Chilean coast in about 30 hours. Colombia has a 2,000 kilometers long border with Venezuela that requires constant attention. The border is largely hilly forests.
The Hermes 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 with 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 is now being joined by Hermes 900s.