Thursday, March 15, 2012

#Israel Drone May Spy on Mexican Drug Cartels

Israel isn’t keeping its latest, advanced spy drone for itself. It’s going south of the U.S. border, probably purchased by the Mexican government. The cartel war may be about to get a lot more robotic.

For some reason, Israel isn’t disclosing which “Latin American government” bought an unknown number of unarmed Hermes 900 drones for $50 million. But Danger Room pal Paul McLeary of Aviation Week suspects it’s Mexico, and has spotted documents from Mexico’s finance ministry that might prove it. One document dated Dec. 20, 2011 and available on the ministry’s website, sought to fill an order worth about $50 million for “unmanned aircraft, ground segment and additional payloads for the Federal Police.”

The price happens to match an announcement by Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems in January to supply an order for the Hermes 900 to “a governmental office of a country in the Americas.” Elbit Systems isn’t confirming it, but McLeary also reportedly obtained another document from the ministry regarding the “acquisition of two Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 900, ground command-and-control system and additional payload.”

So chances are that the Hermes 900 is headed for the skies above Juarez. It would hardly be the first drone deployed against the cartels. But it’s still a “huge upgrade,” writes McLeary: Mexico’s military uses at least two Israeli Hermes 450 drones and the federales have more than a dozen smaller, hand-launched “micro-UAVs.” more