SINGAPORE — An Israeli defense company debuted its newest surveillance drone at the Singapore Airshow this week, which it says will enter serial production in 2025 for an undisclosed customer that already placed an order.

The drone, dubbed Hermes 650 Spark, is the latest member of Elbit System’s Hermes family of systems that have existed for decades.

“The Hermes 650 sits in between the 450 and 900 variants, it can carry 260 kilograms of useful payload spread across two payload bays, and can fly within a line-of-sight range of 300 kilometers with satellite communication capabilities,” Ziv Avni, vice president of business development at Elbit, told Defense News.

Avni said the new variant is able to fly beyond the operator’s line of sight and has an endurance of up to 24 hours. Although the platform wasn’t made for a specific customer, it integrates three key features that buyers have identified as important to them, he added.

“For our general customer base, we have noticed that keeping the life-cycle maintenance cost low — so overall cost-effectiveness — is important, as well as increasing the operational flexibility of flying at different speeds and taking off or landing on short runways,” Avni noted.

The Hermes 650 is able to take off from runways measuring less than 200 meters (656 feet). The company told Defense News it is already under contract from an unspecified customer to begin serial production next year.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force is one of the oldest operators of the Hermes 450, which was one of two drones it had on static display at the air show. The other was the Heron 1, manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Singapore often looked to Israel as a key drone supplier, but this could change as the island nation aims to further invest in sovereign capabilities.

Avni declined to comment on whether the Singaporean service expressed interest in the newest variant, but did say he expects the Hermes 650 Spark “will eventually replace the Hermes 450 some customers operate.”

In theory, he added, it would only be a matter of a few weeks for operators to transition from flying one model to the other.

“Many of our customers now want a mixed fleet for drone operations. For instance, if a country is very big, it could choose to opt for the Hermes 900, as it has a greater endurance to carry out monitoring, and use the 650 to survey areas closer to shore,” Avni noted.

Elbit has heavily advertised the new drone for maritime security and border patrol missions. The configuration presented at the show was true to size and featured electronic warfare sensors.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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