DSEi 2011: Elbit underlines UAV strategy
Elbit Systems has told Shephard that 'various options' are being considered for the fleet of Hermes 450 UAVs operating in Afghanistan ahead of their replacement by Watchkeeper air frames.
The UAS Tactical Services (UtacS) joint venture between Elbit Systems and Thales UK has been operating an undisclosed number of Hermes 450s as part of 'Operation Lydian' since 2007 but will come to an end following the hand over of ISTAR operations from the 450 to Watchkeeper.
Senior director for UAS programmes at Elbit Systems, Eli Dotan, said: 'We are looking at options and it would be very clever to use the capability [elsewhere] as they have proven themselves on operations.'
Unable to comment on specifics, Dotan told Shephard: 'There is an opportunity for them to stay in Afghanistan for different users but it is too early to say.'
However, speaking at the Paris Air Show in June, Thales UK told Shephard that 'numerous' Thales-owned H450s would be made available with plenty of interest from undisclosed customers. He went on to describe how unlikely it was that any would stay in Afghanistan.
Last week, Hermes 450 airframes, operating in Afghanistan under the MoD's urgent operational requirement that is Op Lydian, amassed over 50,000 hours in Afghanistan.
Elsewhere, Dotan said Elbit was still considering whether to approach the UK MoD regarding its Scavenger ISTAR requirement. 'Scavenger is not something that is very stable. It depends on what the customer will require. The Hermes 900 could conduct some 70% of Scavenger requirements and would be a good extension to the Watchkeeper capability. But this is up to the customer to decide.'
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