The army’s new drones are unlikely to fly over Swiss skies until mid-2022, weapons chief Martin Sonderegger said on Saturday. Zurich’s new era. Their first take-off should therefore take place about three years later than planned.
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According to Martin Sonderegger, the Israeli supplier (Elbit Systems) had underestimated the efforts to be made. “In retrospect, the calendar was too sporty,” he conceded. To this were added other complications, such as the Covid-19 pandemic – which caused three lockdowns in Israel – and the crash of a drone of the type ordered – Hermes 900 HFE – during a test flight in the Israeli desert in August 2020.
“We hope to see them fly in Switzerland by the end of the first half of 2022”, developed the chief of arms. The devices are once again flown in Israel, he said.
Initially, the latter will only be able to fly in Switzerland in the company of an escort plane. So that the machine can be used alone, the “Sense and Avoid” technology with which it is equipped, designed to detect obstacles in the airspace and prevent collisions, will have to be authorized by Switzerland, explained Martin Sonderegger.
Switzerland has set high demands for this project, he stressed. And this while the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority has never – according to the information provided – authorized a drone of this size to fly in civilian airspace and not only in restricted airspace.
In addition, Switzerland has ordered drones that work with a diesel engine, which makes them heavier. Consequence: their wings must be adjusted. Criticisms had already been voiced in 2015 during the examination of the file by the Federal Chambers. In particular because Switzerland had set its sights on an Israeli object, which moreover is not yet ready to be produced.
Martin Sonderegger’s response on Saturday: the current delay is the price to pay for the “courage” to have chosen an innovative product. “If the object is already ready at the time of ordering, we can say that we are taking zero risk. But the product is then, as a rule, already obsolete. “
Switzerland no longer has drones
Switzerland currently no longer has reconnaissance drones. The Ranger ADS 95 was decommissioned in November 2019, after twenty years of use. The border guards currently use helicopters.
For the record, the Swiss army ordered six drones from the Israeli manufacturer for 250 million francs. The devices, nine meters long and 17 meters wide, will not be armed.
They can stay in the air for 24 hours and can detect planes, drones and missiles. The six drones will be used, among other things, to monitor borders, search for missing people in the mountains or assess a situation after a natural disaster.