The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF is fielding at least two dozen Elbit Systems Hermes 900 Kochav (Star) medium-altitude long-endurance surveillance drones.

The Hermes 900 drone was seen in a video shared on 24 February by Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the commander of Uganda’s Land Forces and the president’s son.

The Hermes 900 MALE drone was part of a two-dozen haul reported to have been supplied in 2019 from Israel.

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Kampala is understood to have already received two dozen Hermes 900 StarLiner drones from an undisclosed Israeli firm.

The Elbit Systems Hermes 900 Kochav (Star) is a medium-size, multi-payload, medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical missions. It is a successor to the Hermes 450 series of drones, one of the most widely used military drones in the world.

The drone is suitable for military and commercial applications, including surveillance, intelligence collection, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), homeland security, maritime patrol, border security, and post-disaster surveys.

The UAV has an endurance of over 30 hours and can fly at a maximum altitude of 30,000 feet (9,100 m), with a primary mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay. The Hermes 900 has a wingspan of 15 m (49 ft) and weighs 970 kg (2,140 lb), with a payload capability of 300 kg (660 lb).

Payload options include electro-optical/infrared sensors, synthetic-aperture radar/ground-moving target indication, communications and electronic intelligence, electronic warfare, and hyperspectral sensors.

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, and AAI Corp Aerosonde VTOL UAV.

Earlier in February 2011, the Israeli firm Aeronautics Defence Systems, was given a contract to supply two Orbiter 2 drones to Uganda. The Orbiter 2 drone has a wingspan of 3metres and an endurance of 3.5 hours.

UPDF operates mostly surveillance drones to monitor its vast borders with Kenya to the east, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and the south by Tanzania.

One RQ-11B Raven was lost in a crash in August 2011, another one crashed in February of that same year.