The Royal Thai Navy has selected Israeli aerospace firm Elbit Systems to supply seven Hermes 900 Kochav drones for four billion baht ($112.2 million).
According to local media, the company’s pitch bested more than a dozen proposals from Turkey, China, Israel, and the US for the southeast Asian nation’s new maritime surveillance drones.
Navy spokesman Vice Adm. Pokkrong Monthatphalin said that Thailand had signed an approval for the winning bid last week.
A formal contract, reportedly in its draft stage, is expected to be signed within 30 days at the Bang Chang naval air base in Rayong.
The new drones will be deployed at coastal naval bases to support maritime missions along with the four Hermes 450 drones that the Royal Thai Navy currently operates.
Before the approval was signed, the move to procure advanced drones for Thailand encountered controversy in parliament.
Two opposition members of parliament accused the navy of not being transparent in the acquisition process.
Yutthapong Charassathien and Anudit Nakorntap claimed that the service favored the Israeli-made drone despite its not having been deployed by any country’s navy.
They also said that the Hermes 900 has a “bad reputation” for crashing.
The Royal Thai Navy dismissed the accusations, claiming the procurement was, indeed, transparent.
The Hermes 900 Drone
The Hermes 900 is a tactical, medium-altitude, long-endurance drone designed to support intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions.
It has a takeoff weight of 1,180 kilograms (2,601 pounds) and an endurance of up to 36 hours.
The drone features state-of-the-art avionics, retractable landing gear, and automatic takeoff and landing systems.
Elbit Systems said that the Hermes 900 drones delivered to Thailand will be equipped with high-performance sensors, enabling improved detection of ground and maritime targets “over a wide spectral range.”