The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) is operating a new medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), believed to be the Israeli Hermes 900.
In a video shared on 24 February by Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the commander of Uganda’s land forces and the president’s son, a large UAV could be seen in a hangar while soldiers prepared for another operation against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.
The V-tail UAV is similar in configuration to the MQ-9 Reaper, AVIC Wing Loong and TAI Anka-S, but appears to more closely match the Elbit Hermes 900 Kochav (Star).
In 2019, the East African reported that Uganda had received two dozen Hermes 900 UAVs from Israel for surveillance, intelligence collection, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), homeland security, maritime patrol, border security and post-disaster survey missions. They were apparently acquired under a July 2019 agreement which saw Uganda acquire a large number of UAVs.
The Hermes 900 has a 15 metre wingspan and 1 180 kg maximum takeoff weight. It can fly up to 30 000 feet and has an endurance of between 30 and 36 hours. Its 350 kg payload is almost double that of its predecessor, the Hermes 450. The aircraft can take off and land automatically from runways, including those without instruments. It features items like air traffic control radio, radio relay, identification friend or foe transponder and optional satellite communications for extended range.
Payloads can include electro-optical/infrared/laser, the T-200 synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator, DCoMPASS surveillance and targeting turret, AES 201V electronic support measures/electronic intelligence system, Skyfix/Skyjam communications intelligence/direction finding and Comjam jamming system or communications relay system.
The Hermes 900 first flew in 2009 and has been bought by Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Switzerland, Mexico, the Philippines and Israel. It has been flown by the United Nations in Mali.
Uganda has bought other UAVs, including several RQ-11Bs from the United States for use in Somalia. It also reportedly placed an order for the Aeronautics Orbiter II UAV in 2011.