During the first week of Operation "Protective Edge", the "Hermes 900" UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) took off for its first operational mission. Until that point, the Israeli UAV from Elbit Systems had only gone out on test flights and according to the original plans, it was supposed to be integrated in the force's operational activities in 2015. In light of Operation "Protective Edge", the need for the UAV grew more urgent and the integration into the UAV squadron was thus expedited.
The missions of the MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAV are similar to those of the "Hermes 450" but it brings with it a carrying capacity that is double that of its predecessor, which allows it to carry a much larger load during flights and for longer durability in the air. Additionally, it is capable of executing its missions from a much higher altitude. "For the operation, the 'Hermes 900' has been designated for the missions that it is able to execute better than the 'Hermes 450', also it's always better to have another UAV in the air if possible", explains Captain Grisha, a combat operator in the squadron who, until a few weeks ago, served as an integration officer of the "Hermes 900". "The cockpit and the operating systems are more advanced and allow the aircrews a greater degree of flexibility. The mission commander and the operator can work together better".
Although the UAV operators in the squadron have thus far only undergone ground training for operating the "Hermes 900", which has become operational despite the lack of aerial training on the part of the UAV operators, the soldiers in the squadron seem satisfied by the results. "There is great excitement in the squadron and we are already expecting to execute other missions using the 'Hermes 900'", says Captain Grisha.
Currently, the use of the "Hermes 900" is just for unique missions as part of the current operation. The moment the operation ends, the soldiers of the squadron plan to take a "step back" and return to a more normal, organized integration process. "There are other milestones that have not taken place yet and are important to the integration process, for example the aerial training, learning about its ability to function in emergency situations, a better understanding of the capabilities of the 'Hermes 900' in terms of the weather, high-altitude flights, etc".