Adani Aerospace and Defence in partnership with Elbit Systems manufactures the complete carbon composite Aerostructures for Hermes-900 and Hermes 450 in Hyderabad.

The three services have contracted two Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) each through the fourth tranche of emergency procurements sanctioned by the government recently, all from Israel. The contracts have been concluded and the deliveries are expected early next year, multiple defence sources independently confirmed.

While the Army and Navy have procured the Hermes-900 manufactured by Elbit Systems, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has procured the Heron MK-II from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In 2021, the Army had contracted four Heron MK-II UAS which were inducted last year.

“The induction of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Heron MK-II and planned induction of Hermes 900 Star liners will not only boost the reconnaissance and surveillance capability of Indian Army but also their teaming with combat helicopters will prove to be a game changer in the third dimension,” a defence source said.

Adani Aerospace and Defence in partnership with Elbit Systems – Adani Elbit UAV Complex – manufactures the complete carbon composite Aerostructures for Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 in Hyderabad.

To questions if the conflict in West Asia may impact the delivery schedule, sources said the air frame for the Hermes 900 has already been made in Hyderabad. “Some equipment has to come in from Israel which has already come in. So there is no impact with respect to that,” a source stated.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, in August 2021, the Army Aviation got control of the Army’s Heron MALE UAS which were earlier under the Artillery. “The transfer of RPAS has further enhanced our surveillance as well as strike capability and transformed Army Aviation into a potent force multiplier capable of operating in combined combat teams concept and of performing varied tasks across the varied terrain of our country,” the source cited earlier stated.

Heron Upgrade

There is also a major upgrade plan lined up for all the Heron to MK-II for weaponization and facilitation of SATCOM capability estimated to cost of ₹21,000 crore. However, that has been long delayed and officials expressed confidence that it would be cleared soon.

Of the four Heron MK-II, two were deployed at Leh while the other two were in Eastern Command area late last year. Initially, the idea was to lease them IAI but after evaluation of the cost, the Army went for their purchase. As reported earlier, the Army is looking to create a separate cadre of UAV operators and the proposal is currently under consideration by the Army Headquarters.

Elbit Systems describes the Hermes-900 Starliner, as a “powerful and trend setting” MALE UAV that features adverse weather capabilities and qualified to be “safely integrated into civilian airspace and fly in the same environment with manned aircraft.” It has an endurance of up to 36 hours and a service ceiling of 30,000 feet.

As reported by The Hindu last month, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Anil Chauhan has ordered two studies to be conducted regarding major military platforms used by all three services, on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and armoured helicopters. Of these, the study on UAVs has since been completed with the recommendation for 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs and 155 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs.

A deal to procure 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance drones from the U.S. is currently in advanced stages.