Singapore declares full operational capability for Hermes 450 UAV

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Kelvin Wong, Singapore - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
30 March 2015


The Republic of Singapore Air Force has met all of its operational requirements for its Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicles, which were delivered in 2007. Source: IHS/Kelvin Wong

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has declared full operational capability (FOC) for its fleet of Elbit Hermes 450 long-endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on 30 March, nearly eight years after they were delivered in May 2007.

The RSAF's Hermes 450 UAVs are operated by 116 Squadron, which is based at Tengah Air Base.

Officiating at a ceremony at the UAV Command in Murai Camp, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted that UAVs are essential capabilities that improve military effectiveness in both peacetime and war.

"The achievement of FOC for the Hermes 450 UAV is therefore another significant milestone in the SAF's transformation into a modern and effective fighting force," he said. "Compared to older UAVs, the Hermes 450 enhances our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities with its extended endurance, advanced avionics, and more capable sensors."

According to the RSAF, 116 Squadron was formed in January 2007 from a team of pilots and support personnel who received training on the Hermes 450 from October to December 2006. Local flight operations commenced in October 2007, in parallel with efforts to integrate the air vehicle into the SAF's networked systems.

IHS Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets notes that the Hermes 450 UAV is capable of fully autonomous flight with in-flight redirection capability and features GPS-based navigation, advanced dual computers, dual datalinks and redundant electrical and avionics systems. It measures 6.1 m in length and has a wingspan of 10.5 m.

The Hermes 450 is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 150 kg, although the RSAF has configured its vehicles with a belly-mounted electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) turret with high-definition colour daylight TV and IR cameras, as well as a laser designator.

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Ang, commanding officer of 116 Squadron, told reporters that the Hermes 450 offers significant performance, as well as payload improvements over the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Searcher UAV, which entered service with Singapore in 1998. For example, while the Searcher is limited to carrying either a TV/laser or IR/laser sensor system, the Hermes 450 is capable of true day and night operation with its dual TV/IR cameras and laser designator mission payload.

Additionally, the Hermes 450's embedded electronic self-test feature enables support crew to conduct pre-flight checks more efficiently, with as much as 40% time savings compared with the Searcher vehicles, he said.

Singapore first began unmanned aircraft operations with the army-operated Tadiran Mastiff tactical UAV in 1979, but responsibility for persistent UAV operations shifted to the RSAF in the 1980s with the induction of the IAI Scout system, given its position as the core aviation service of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Scout was eventually replaced by the Searcher and the RSAF subsequently expanded its unmanned airborne surveillance capabilities with the induction of the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) IAI Heron 1 system into service with 119 Squadron in May 2012.

According to Lt Col Ang, the Hermes 450 complements the Heron 1 and Searcher systems in current RSAF operations, although he noted that the Searcher will eventually be retired.

Besides the air force, the SAF's other services also maintain their own UAV systems, with the Singapore Army utilising the indigenously developed Singapore Technologies (ST) Aerospace Skyblade III mini-UAV system, and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) deploying Insitu's ScanEagle from its upgraded Victory-class corvettes.
Singapore declares full operational capability for Hermes 450 UAV - IHS Jane's 360
 
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