At Paris Air Show, Israel Displays Its Next-gen Drones

World’s leading aviation exhibit started on Monday amid highest levels of defense spending in more than 30 years

An Elbit Systems Hermes 45 drone
Elbit Systems

For the world’s arms markers, the Paris Air Show, which opened on Monday this week, comes at a fortuitous time.

It’s not only the world’s largest aerospace industry exhibition measured by number of exhibitors and size of exhibit space and a chance for aerospace executives to visit Paris in springtime. It’s also a great time to be selling weapons.

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Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that global military spending rose 2.6% last year to more than $1.8 trillion, its highest level since 1988. The end of the Cold War caused arms spending to drop, but it began turning higher again a decade later.

The attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which the United States attributes to Iran, was a reminder that threats remain but that new fronts are opening, in this case for under-sea warfare.

An aerial view shows the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 17 2019.
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Some 400,000 people are expected to attend the Paris Air Show before it close June 23, including 300 delegations from aviation authorities and other governmental bodies. About 2,000 companies from 590 countries are exhibiting, including a big representation from Israel.

The Israeli presence includes the Defense Ministry’s Sibat export authority as well as the state-owned companies Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael, privately owned Elbit Systems as well as a host of smaller players such as Aeronautics Limited, UVision and jet engine maker Beit Shemesh Engines.

Among the new wares on display in the show is Elbit’s Hermes 45 drone, designed to provide enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for ground forces in units as small as brigades and divisions, as well as by naval squadrons.

Now at an advanced stage of development, with the company likely to offer it to customers next year, the Hermes 45 has no need for a runway for takeoffs and landings. It needs just a two-person crew, who launch the drone using a small track and recover it on landing with an inflatable net.

“That will improve the survivability of the aircraft itself,” Hagi Topolanski, head of Elbit’s unmanned aerial vehicle division, told the trade publication Flight Global.

A video demonstration of the UVision Hero-400EC.

The Hermes 45 is light, with a maximum take-off weight of 70 kilograms but can carry two or three payloads to provide a single intelligence picture. It can fly as high as 18,000 feet and stay in the air 24 hours.

Elbit is also showing off Rampage, a supersonic missile with many of the characteristics of a UAV. Designed to take out air force bases and infrastructure it can stay in the air for more than two hours before it moves to strike its designated target.

Israel is one of the world’s leading makers of military drones and Elbit’s offerings aren’t the only one at the Paris Air Show. IAI has unveiled a smaller version of its Heron UAV called the T-Heron.

Like the Hermes 45, the T-Heron is designed for ground troops in the field. It doesn’t required specialized teams or a runway; it’s enough for some ground flattened by a tractor for it to take off and land.

The T-Heron is bigger than the Hermes 45, weighing in at 180 kilograms. But it can reach heights of 24,000 feet and has a range of 1,500 kilometers. Moreover, the T-Heron is equipped with satellite communications so it can be operated remotely, included landing, refueling and relaunching without human contact.

IAI is now conducting ground tests, and plans to have the T-Heron airborne in December.

Meanwhile, IAI’s Elta unit if offering an upgraded version of its Multi-Sensor MMR, which acts as the radar system for Israel’s Iron Dome and other anti-missile systems. The MS-MMR has been a successful product for Elta, with sales to date of $2 billion to seven countries.

Video showing capabilities of the Multi-Sensor MMR.

“Drones and UAVs, tactical aerial weapons, cruise missiles, and ballistic rockets and missiles have all created new challenges to Air Defense and Surveillance systems,” Elta explains. “This created a demand for air situational picture systems to provide higher accuracy, faster update rates and upgraded identification of aerial threats.”

The latest iteration of MS-MMR packs in additional sensors to the main MMR system to an array of active and passive sensors.

Israel doesn’t make submarines but un the field of underwater warfare, it has at least one entry, coming from Elbit’s Canadian subsidiary GeoSpectrum Technologies. The company recently introduced its Multipurpose Autonomous Sub-Surface Training Target, or MASTT, which help train future submariner.

Anti-submarine warfare training normally involves operating either real submarines at great cost or training targets, which are of a limited transmitting capacity. MASST enables trainees to get the experience of detecting and tracking conventional and nuclear submarines by replicating their acoustic signatures.