Hermes accident rate prompts UK action

The British Army’s interim use of leased Hermes 450 unmanned air vehicles has involved an eye-watering 11 crashes in Afghanistan since 2007, according to armed forces minister Andrew Robathan.

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I filed an initial news story about the disclosure earlier today, but hope to get an answer from the army soon with regard to the categories of accident that we are looking at here.

Tellingly, a recently-concluded review into the army’s training methods identified shortcomings in “airmanship standards” with regard to the Hermes, according to the minister’s comments. Perfecting that remains a tough ask, though, when you consider that Royal Artillery personnel have zero opportunity to train on actual flying vehicles in the UK.

Coincidentally, I spent yesterday at a conference in London about the UK’s new Military Aviation Authority, which is tasked with transforming the way the armed forces and its suppliers deal with issues like certificating new equipment and ensuring the safety of ageing platforms. Interestingly, one of the air systems currently going through the former of these processes is the Hermes 450-based Watchkeeper, developed by Thales UK and Elbit Systems.

Robathan’s revelation is a clear pointer as to why a decision to send Watchkeeper to Afghanistan has slipped markedly to the right, with the aircraft first required to be certificated to civilian safety standards. A solid strategy, by the look of things.


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