June 2, 2012: On May 23rd, Singapore activated a new air force squadron for its growing fleet of Heron UAVs. The Herons are to replace the 40 Searcher UAVs that have been in use for nearly a decade. Singapore has already retired 60 even older Scout UAVs. The Searcher is a scaled up Scout, which is about half the size, weight, and performance of the Searcher.
Costing about $6 million each, the Heron 1 has a wingspan of 16.6 meters (58.4 feet), max take-off weight of 1.2 tons, and carries a 250 kg (550 pound) payload. With a max endurance of up to 50 hours (depending on payload carried), the Heron can be equipped with day and night vidcams or a naval search radar. Cruising at about 100 kilometers an hour, and flying as high as 10 kilometers (32,000 feet), the Heron is very similar in cost and performance to the United States Predator.
Five years ago Singapore formed a Hermes 450 squadron but only bought five of these UAVs. Israel, Britain, and the United States are also major users of the Hermes 450 UAV. Costing two million dollars each, Hermes 450 weighs 450 kg (992 pounds) and has a payload of 150 kg (330 pounds). It is 6.1 meters (20 feet) long with a 10.5 meter (35 foot) wingspan. It can stay in the air for up to 20 hours per sortie, has a cruising speed of 130 kilometers an hour, and flies as high as 5,500 meters (18,000 feet). The Hermes 450 is the primary UAV for the Israeli armed forces and has been in service for the last decade.
The older (entered service in 1998) Searcher 2 is 500 kg's (1,100 pounds) with a 68 kg (150 pound) payload. Endurance is 18 hours and max altitude is 6,100 meters (20,000 feet).
The Hermes 450 can carry a radar, which Singapore needs for maritime reconnaissance in its extensive (because the country is a small island) territorial waters.