The Swiss border will be temporarily monitored by helicopters instead of drones starting at the end of 2019 due to a delivery delay by the manufacturer.
The Swiss army has confirmed reports published in the TagesAnzeigerexternal link on Monday that it will receive the Hermes drones from the Israeli defense contractor Elbit at least seven months later than originally planned. This means the Swiss border will be temporary monitored by helicopters.
“The manufacturer underestimated the certification process for the new aircraft,” confirmed Kaj-Gunnar Sievert, a spokesperson for the defense procurement agency, armasuisseexternal link.
The order of the Hermes 900 drones at a cost of CHF250 million, which was approved four years ago, were expected to be delivered in 2019. A first shipment is now expected in December but will not be deployed until the third quarter of 2020 because of the time needed to train personnel and approve the drones.
Sievert told Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA that such delays are "normal" and part of every contract. The drone manufacturer Elbit could still face a penalty but Sievert said that nothing had been decided.
The six new unmanned aircraft vehicles are intended to be used by border guards in the fight against crime tourism, irregular migration and organised smuggling.
The old Ranger drones, which had been in use for 20 years, are reaching the end of their lifespan and will have to be scrapped as early as November. Until the new drones are up and running, the army will resort to the use of helicopters, which are less discreet and consume more fuel. They can also remain in the air for a shorter time compared to the new drones, which can remain in flight for 24 hours.
The army does not expect to incur additional costs as a result of the delay.