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Swiss test controversial Israeli surveillance drone

Switzerland has purchased six reconnaissance drones from Israel at a cost of CHF250 million ($255 million), which are expected to be operated by the Swiss army from the end of 2022. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

The Swiss army has carried out the first successful test flight of an unmanned reconnaissance drone manufactured by Israel.

This content was published on June 16, 2022 - 10:49
Keystone-SDA/sb

The move comes after earlier controversy over the purchase of Israeli military technology.

It is one of two unmanned Hermes 900 HFE drones (also known as ADS 15) delivered in April. They are the first of six reconnaissance drones purchased from Israel at a cost of CHF250 million ($255 million), which are expected to be operated by the Swiss army from the end of 2022.

Wednesday’s test flight lasted 70 minutes from a military base at Emmen in central Switzerland, the Federal Office of Armaments (armasuisse) said in a statementExternal link on June 15. The drone reached a speed of 180 kilometres per hour and a maximum altitude of 2,000 metres.

Specialists from the Israeli manufacturer Elbit supported the Swiss project team, the statement added.

The Hermes 900 HFE is an unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance system. The drone is nine metres long and has a wingspan of 17 metres. The drone can be fitted with different sensors and used both day and night.

The six drones will be used, among other things, to monitor borders, search for missing persons in the mountains or assess a situation after a natural disaster. They can also detect aircraft, other drones and missiles.

Controversy

Switzerland currently has no reconnaissance drones. The Ranger ADS 95 was decommissioned in November 2019 after 20 years of use. The border guards currently use helicopters. The four remaining drones that have been ordered will be delivered by the end of 2023.

Even before arriving in Switzerland, the drones manufactured by the Israeli firm Elbit Systems generated controversy. In 2015, when the order was approved by parliament, there was criticism about the purchase of Israeli military technology.

In January, a Senate committee issued a report stating that the purchase represented a “considerable risk” for Switzerland. The project has been delayed for almost three years, mainly due to the crash of a drone during a test flight in 2020. The company has since been able to rectify the technical problem, without changing the design of the drones.

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