This week the UK MoD extended its contract to operate Israeli Hermes 450 surveillance drones in Afghanistan by a further eighteen months. The contract extension, with U-TacS , the Leicester-based company jointly owned by Elbit systems and Thales UK is worth $70 million according to Elbit . The UK, which has been operating the Hermes drones in Afghanistan since July 2007, is developing the Watchkeeper drone to replace the Hermes on a permanent basis. However the Watchkeeper is currently around eight months behind schedule and not expected to enter service until late 2011/early 2012.
Meanwhile drones continue to crash at an alarming rate. In the last ten days alone a Predator has crashed and a Reaper drone has crashed at Hollman AFB in separate incidents, and an Israeli Skylark surveillance drone crashed in the Gaza strip. These come just days after an unknown drone crashed on the Afghan-Pakistan border on October 7.