Six new Israeli surveillance drones ordered by the Swiss army will not be delivered until the end of 2024, SRF public radio has reported. Israeli provider Elbit must pay contractual penalties, a spokesman for army procurement agency Armasuisse said. The cost of the six machines is now estimated at CHF300 million ($321 million)
As a result of the delays, Israeli provider Elbit must pay contractual penalties, an Armasuisse spokeswoman told SRF on Friday.
The reconnaissance drones, one of which was successfully tested in Switzerland this summer, will be ready and operating by the end of 2024, according to the spokeswoman. It was planned that after the test flight, two drones would be turned over to the Air Force by the end of this year, and that the army would have all six ordered available by the end of 2023.
Swiss Army Drones
SRF estimates that the cost of the six machines will be CHF300 million ($321 million). There was still discussion of CHF 250 million in June. According to Armasuisse, the higher expenditures are the result of currency changes.
Switzerland has been without reconnaissance drones since 2019, when previous aircraft were retired after 20 years of operation. The new system was supposed to be phased in beginning in 2019. One of the reasons for the delays was the crash of a drone destined for Switzerland in August 2020.
Drones can be employed by civilian agencies such as cantonal command staffs, police and rescue services, or the Swiss border authorities, who are now employing helicopters.
Even before the present delay, the drones sparked debate. When the contract was authorised by the Swiss parliament in 2015, there was controversy about the acquisition of Israeli military hardware. In addition, a Senate committee produced a report in January 2022 declaring that the transaction posed a “significant danger” to Switzerland.
Switzerland has been using drones for surveillance since 1998. Its current fleet consists of 15 unarmed small tactical ADS Ranger drones used for data collection. Switzerland announced plans to purchase six Hermes 900 HFE drones produced by the Israeli Elbit Systems business in 2014. The transaction was very contentious, sparking a heated political discussion in Switzerland. Only one Israeli Hermes 900 drone has been delivered so far. The first drone deployments are scheduled for the second half of 2020.
There is currently no sign that Switzerland intends to buy or manufacture armed drones. The Swiss, on the other hand, participated in a cooperation with other European countries to build the nEuron combat drone, a technological demonstration model.
In June 2014, Switzerland’s Federal Office for Defence Procurement announced plans to acquire Hermes 900 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones. The Hermes 900 is an unarmed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to undertake intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions. The drones are scheduled to be delivered by 2020, replacing the ADS 95-Ranger UAV systems, 15 of which are presently in service with the Swiss Air Forces. Five of the six Hermes drones have failed to arrive.
The Hermes drone that was delivered is now on the ground. Swiss pilots are now studying how to operate drones in Israel.
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