The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military branch of the Hamas organisation, announced that it had shot down a reconnaissance drone of the Hermes 900 type with an anti-aircraft missile east of Gaza in a combined operation with the Al-Mujahideen Brigades.
This is the first time Al-Qassam has openly admitted to shooting down a drone of this kind. They previously claimed to have targeted it twice with Homemade Mutabar-1 Short-range Air Defence System, near Khan Yunis and once in the central governorate, but that was for a different drone model known as the “Hermes 450.”
Mutabar-1 air defence system
Hamas Mutabar-1 is a homegrown short-range air defence system. According to reports, the short-range air defence system Mutabar-1 is engineered to eliminate targets that approach the defended object. Mutabar-1 is a short-range air defence system that intercepts low-flying air targets, including UAVs, fighter aircraft, and helicopters. The capabilities of the Mutabar-1 air defence system, including but not limited to the range, target identification and locking capability, manoeuvrability, and more, remain undisclosed. The use of telephone handsets from the pre-mobile handset era to relay messages between the personnel responsible for rocket installation and the operator in charge of the Mutabar-1 air defence system suggests that the system is not particularly contemporary. The fact that a single operator commands a single rocket suggests that no two missiles are interconnected.
Hermes 900 Kochav Drone
The surveillance drone “Hermes 900” is known as “Kochav” (star) in Israel, and the 166th Squadron – the Firebird Squadron – headquartered at Palmachim Airbase- operates it.
In a previous interview with “Israel Defence,” the commander of Squadron 166 outlined the activities of the unit operating Hermes 900 aircraft and their role in combating enemies by gathering information and securing forces’
He stated that unmanned aircraft currently perform 80% of the Air Force’s operational flight hours. This trend is growing as drone technology advances, not because unmanned aircraft do miracles compared to manned fighter planes and helicopters, but because unmanned aircraft are less expensive, saving lives and money while providing much better results.
He added that Elbit Systems, an Israeli business, manufactures Hermes 900 aircraft. These drones can fly for hours without landing, resting, or refilling. When the Israeli army starts an attack on Gaza, it is accompanied by a drone in the sky to verify the target and its surroundings. As a result, Hermes 900 drones often fly in all weather conditions, day and night.
All drone operators and leaders are officers, and they receive intensive training. Most go through a year-long trial period before signing a five-year contract. The fundamental course lasts six months, followed by a three-month operational training session.
After a year, the operator is promoted to lead a team and completes the most difficult mission: targeting attackers. The drone transmits data and information to pilots of manned aircraft, allowing them to attack the target freely. The advanced camera captures individual people and extensive information about the target.
According to the Elbit Systems website, the Kukhav or Hermes 900 drone, operated by Squadron 166, has a payload of 350 kg. It has intelligence gathering, target acquisition, reconnaissance, monitoring, electronic warfare capabilities, and a laser. It can survey enormous areas and fly at a height of 30,000 feet for 36 hours.
Hermes 900 drones carry out a variety of missions and activities, such as intelligence operations, helping ground forces, and intelligence photography of infrastructure.
Squadron 166 supervises the ground force from above, evaluating approach axes (roads and risk protection) so that the force can prepare and move forward to accomplish its tasks. The superior camera on the Kochav drone is visible to operators, intelligence, and leaders, allowing them to observe the region the unit is approaching and prepare to accomplish their jobs.
The Hermes aircraft’s crew consists of two officers: a commander and an operator. The drone takes off from a runway, much like any big aircraft from an airport. The operator activates and controls the camera, watches the flight route, and communicates with information and intelligence consumers, field commanders, or commanding officers over the phone.
Hermes 900 is the second-largest reconnaissance drone in the Air Force after the Heron TP drone, also called by the Israelis “Eitan.”
India Awaits Induction
The Indian Army’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) will induct Hermes Starliner 900 drones with satellite communication facilities in 2024. Adani Defence has already produced the airframes for the Hermes 900 that India requires. The equipment must be imported from Israel.
While the precise number of Hermes 900 ‘Starliner’ aircraft purchased by India is unknown, it is assumed that a dozen will be dispersed among the Army, Navy, and Air Force. As a result, the AAC may receive two of these high-end equipment.
India already has SATCOM-capable Heron Mk 2 aircraft. The Hermes ‘Starliner’ also has SATCOM capability. Furthermore, the Heron Mk 1s India has been using for some time will be updated to SATCOM variants.