Colombia mulls buying more Israeli UAVs

Jan. 23, 2012 at 6:18 PM
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BOGOTA, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Colombia has bought an Israeli unmanned air vehicle for security patrols on its troubled border with Venezuela and is considering acquiring at least one more, defense industry sources said.

Israel's Elbit Systems this month confirmed it sold a UAV for $50 million to a Latin American country that it didn't identify. Later, security and defense Web site identified the buyer as Colombia. Other reports said the UAV was ordered for deployment by the Colombian national police.

Colombia would use the UAV in border control missions notably in the country's northeast along the border with Venezuela but cited sources saying the Colombian army is also interested in procuring a UAV, AviationWeek reported.

Colombia and Venezuela patched up differences in 2011 but anti-government guerrilla activity in Colombia continues. Colombian officials accuse Venezuela of backing guerrilla groups opposed to the government in Bogota, a charge that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denies.

Elbit's Hermes 900 tactical UAV is an advanced vehicle that can be deployed in all kinds of difficult atmospheric conditions. The UAV flies at a maximum 33,000 feet and is usually tasked to capture real-time images and transmit them to a universal ground control station.

Hermes 900 can take off and land automatically even in adverse weather conditions, AviationWeek said on its Web site. The UAV's maximum endurance is 40 hours and maximum takeoff weight is 2,134 pounds. It had its maiden flight Dec.14, 2009.

Elbit Systems developed the Hermes 900 as an extension of its Hermes 450 tactical UAV systems, with full compatibility in missions and support infrastructure.

The upgraded UAV features larger multi-payload configurations and higher flight altitude than its predecessor.

The Hermes 900 incorporates an Internal Auto Takeoff and Landing system that enables auto-landing even on alternate non-instrumented runways. It features full redundancy and fault tolerant avionics and electronics architecture.

Elbit says the accompanying universal ground control station can control two UAVs at any given time from a single station while a single operator operates the air vehicle and payloads for each UAV.

In July 2011, Elbit reported the first export sale of its Hermes 900 UAV to the Chilean air force. The Chilean choice followed evaluation of two classes of UAVs. At the high end were the Elbit Hermes 900 and IAI Heron, also from Israel and developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries.

At the lower tactical level were Elbit Hermes 450, and Aerostar from Aeronautics Defense Systems.

Industry sources said Elbit's success in Colombia would likely open it to other markets in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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