The Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) is set to grow its fleet of RQ-900 (Hermes 900) medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by two aircraft, following the signing of an acquisition contract with AEL Sistemas – a Brazil-based subsidiary of Elbit Systems.
Work under this contract – which was signed on December 30, 2021 – will be carried out by AEL Sistemas over a 16-month period, with both aircraft set to join the Brazilian air arm’s ranks before the end of 2023. According to the FAB, this acquisition aims to increase “the operational capacity of the Air Force, mainly in the task of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), where it already works together with other forces and government institutions.”
During the contract signing event, Lt Brig Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior – commander of the FAB – said: “Signing this contract to expand our fleet of remotely piloted aircraft is another step in building the necessary capabilities for the FAB of the future…
“The contract signed today proves the priority we are giving to these remotely piloted systems, which have proved to be very important not only for the defence of Brazil, but also for actions to combat transnational crimes; illegal mining; control of fires and deforestation. These are systems of great importance for our country,” he added.
The FAB has operated a single RQ-900 MALE UAV under the stewardship of 1°/12° Grupo de Aviação (GAv) ‘Hórus’ at Base Aérea Santa Maria (Santa Maria Air Base) in southern Brazil since 2014. Lt Brig Sergio Roberto de Almeida, commander of Aerospace Operations and Preparation with the FAB, emphasised that the RQ-900 had been operated as a kind of proof of concept until now.
He said: “The receipt of these new aircraft puts us at the level of an operational squadron, which now has the ability to fulfil the mission even more effectively, being able to replace aircraft in flight, which is very common in the use of UAVs, prolonging the operation.”
Known as the RQ-900 in Brazilian service, Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 MALE UAV is 27.2ft (8.3m) long and has a wingspan of 50.2ft (15.3m). Powered by a single Rotax 914 four-cylinder piston engine, the platform has a maximum speed of 120kts (220km/h); a cruising speed of 60kts (112km/h) and can be operated at altitudes of up to 30,000ft (9,100m) with an endurance of more than 30 hours.
The FAB’s RQ-900 fleet will be fitted with Elbit Systems’ Digital Compact Multi-purpose Advanced Stabilized System (DCoMPASS) electro-optical (EO) day/night intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) payload and SkEye wide-area airborne persistent video surveillance system. The platform is also equipped with a satellite datalink to enable beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) operations.