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In a significant boost to India’s maritime surveillance capabilities, Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy, has confirmed the upcoming induction of two Hermes 900 Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) by February 2024. These advanced drones, ordered from Adani Defence, mark a crucial step towards strengthening India’s aerial intelligence gathering and reconnaissance capabilities.

The Hermes 900 program exemplifies a successful collaboration between Indian and Israeli experts. The drones will be manufactured in India under a Transfer of Technology (ToT) agreement with Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli defence technology company. This agreement ensures 60% indigenous content in the drones, bolstering India’s self-reliance in the critical defence sector.

Elbit Systems describes the Hermes 900 as the foundation for the StarLiner, a derivative optimized for diverse operational environments. The StarLiner’s ability to carry and operate multiple sensors simultaneously makes it highly versatile, capable of fulfilling various mission requirements, including:

  • Maritime Patrol and Search and Rescue (SAR): Utilizing Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radars, the drones can effectively track surface vessels and locate survivors in distress at sea.
  • Border Surveillance and Reconnaissance: High-resolution electro-optical (EO) payloads like the L3Harris Wescam MX-15/-20 imagers provide detailed situational awareness in land border areas.
  • Electronic Warfare (EW): Dedicated EW systems onboard the drones can disrupt enemy communications and sensor operations, providing a tactical advantage.

The induction of the Hermes 900 drones represents a significant step forward in India’s efforts to modernize its armed forces and maintain a technological edge in the Indian Ocean region. These drones will enhance the Navy’s ability to track and monitor maritime traffic, gather intelligence on potential threats, and conduct search and rescue operations in vast stretches of the ocean.

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