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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Philippine Air Force receives full delivery of Elbit Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 medium altitude long endurance UAVs

MaxDefense received confirmation from military and industry sources that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has received full delivery of all nine (9) Hermes 900 and four (4) Hermes 450 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (MALE UAV) from Israeli defense company Elbit Systems Ltd.

A Hermes 900 UAV during demonstrations at Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

The Philippine Air Force was expecting the delivery of 3 Hermes 900 and 1 Hermes 450 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) each comprising 3 UAVs, ground control system and support equipment, plus a spare used Hermes 450 UAV included by Elbit Systems as part of the deal, bringing a total of 13 flying UAVs.

MaxDefense was first to report on the existence of the Philippine Air Force's Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project and the planned procurement of Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 UAVs back in August 2017, as part of the Horizon 2 phase priority projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

The PAF UAS Acquisition is actually the first big-ticket project of the Philippine Air Force under the Horizon 2 phase, as it was pushed even before the Horizon 2 phase was approved by Pres. Duterte in 2018.

The Hermes 900 (top) and Hermes 450 (above) as seen in PAF markings. Photos shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

Delivery Completion by 2020:

According to our sources, the last batch of Hermes 900 UAVs arrived in the Philippines last August 2020, although Elbit Systems' contract with the Department of National Defense (DND) is not yet complete as Elbit will need to complete all other requirements including establishment of ground facilities, training, logistics support and spares.

Hermes 900 production line in Elbit's facility in Israel. Photo taken from and credited to Elbit Systems Ltd.

It would be remembered that in the Philippine Air Force's "Lead as One" publication released in mid-2020, it mentioned that the PAF is expecting the delivery of 2 UAS composed of 6 UAVs and ground support equipment.

PAF outlining the upcoming delivery of Hermes 900 UAVs within 2020. Photo cropped from Lead As One PAF Publication.

Aside from surveillance, the PAF's Hermes 900 fleet can also be deployed for maritime search and rescue. While Elbit Systems has not identified the customer for their new Life Raft deployment capability, MaxDefense sources confirmed that it is indeed the Philippine Air Force.

This could be useful in assisting ships in distress on the high seas, or even within Philippine territorial and archipelagic waters, allowing faster response in saving lives. Below is a video from Elbit Systems showing this new capability for the Hermes 900 UAV.

Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 in PAF Service:

The UAVs will be operated by the PAF's 303rd Aerial Reconnaissance Group of the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing. The 303rd ARG divided the deployment of these new UAVs as well as existing ones like the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle 2 UAVs to different bases around the country, and training being conducted at the Philippine Army Aviation Regiment's base in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

The badge of the 303rd Aerial Reconnaissance Group, 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, Philippine Air Force. Photo taken from 5th Fighter Wing, Philippine Air Force.

Location of bases where the UAVs will be deployed are confidential, although it would be remembered that sightings of the both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 were confirmed in several locations in the Philippines.

While the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAVs are already delivered, they will all undergo operationalization. According to sources, only 1 Hermes 900 unmanned aerial system with 3 UAVs  and the sole Hermes 450 UAS with 4 UAVs are partially operational, while the 2 other Hermes 900 UAS with 3 UAVs each will probably reach partial operationalization by 2nd quarter of 2021.

Full operationalization of 1 Hermes 900 UAS and 1 Hermes 450 UAS is expected by mid 2021.

Once operational, the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAS can be utilized for several surveillance missions, including tracking down terrorists in jungle and urban areas; battlefield surveillance and real time surveillance; and maritime surveillance in the West Philippine Sea, northern borders with Taiwan, Japan and the Bashi Channel, southern triborder with Indonesia and Malaysia, and the Philippine Rise, and other missions like search and rescue.

The UAS could also cover for the lack of sufficient manned maritime patrol aircraft, although there are certain missions that a manned maritime patrol aircraft are capable of doing that these UAS may not be able to do, including anti-submarine warfare, and munitions delivery.

Horizon 2 Still Far From Complete:

With the deliveries completed, this marks the completion of the first major project of the Philippine Air Force under the Horizon 2 phase. While this is major milestone, the delays in several other Horizon 2 major projects for the PAF is disappointing, considering the end of Horizon 2 is just a little over 2 years away.

MaxDefense hopes that the DND and PAF to speed up their other projects, like the already delayed Attack Helicopter and the slow moving Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Projects.

Project Summary:

Unmanned Aerial System (Level 3) Acquisition Project - Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 MALE UAS

Note: Edited as of 09 September 2020

* End User: Philippine Air Force (300th Air Intelligence & Security Wing)

* Quantity: 3 Hermes 900 systems (9 UAVs and supporting systems), 1 Hermes 450 system (3 UAVs and supporting systems).

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php8,470,000,000.00 (whole project)

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) between Philippine Department of National Defense and Israel Ministry of Defense

* Source of Funding
GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) process.

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Ltd.

* Contract Price: Php8,470,000,000.00 for entire project

* Residual Price: Php0.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 08 August 2017

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:  #PAFUASAcquisition #PAFHermes900UAS #PAFHermes450UAS

* Status: First Hermes 900 UAV delivered September 2019, first complete system of 3 Hermes 900 UAVs and 3+1 Hermes 450 UAVs completed before November 2019. Two other Hermes 900 systems (6 UAVs) delivered as of August 2020. Delivery of UAVs completed, minor contract requirements remain, to be completed by 4th quarter 2020.

First edit and release: 09 September 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. After seeing the video of hermes 900 deploying/dropping life rafts, i am wondering if it is likewise capable of dropping bombs and missiles...

  2. why dont they acquire attack drones from Israel and Turkey. these are cheaper yet battle tested in the Azerbajian and Armenia war where Azerbajian won by using hundreds of kamikaze drones from Turkey. they should also acquire anti drone rockets and radars. these assets can be deployed by land, air and sea. drones also can be used by police ops and civilian purposes like in agriculture, traffic info etc. I think PHL should buy hundreds of these drones. way cheaper and force multiplier while waiting for the MRFs acquisition.

  3. SIR max, is our Hermes UAVs can be configured into armed drones?


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