One of the highlights of Brazil’s Operation Agate is the operational premiere of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPV) Hermes 450. This unmanned aerial vehicle has already generated results: During the operation, A-29 Super Tucano fighters destroyed a clandestine runway after thorough reconnaissance work by the RQ-450, the new name of the RPV operated by the Brazilian Air Force.
In just a few hours flying, the RQ-450 collected all the information required for the attack mission.
“We knew many details of the target and even noted that there were no people on site, so we could safely drop our bombs,” said Lt. Col. Richard Laux, commander of the First Squadron of the Twelfth Aviation Group (1 º / 12 º GAV). Also called the Horus Squadron, this is the first military unit in Brazil to use this type of aircraft.
The clandestine runway was 1,600 meters long and is located on the border between Brazil and Colombia, a region known as the “dog’s head.” Four A-29 fighters took off from an Air Force advanced Super Tucano detachment in Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM) to carry out the attack. We used eight 230 kg bombs, enough to prevent landings or takeoffs even by small aircraft.
All reconnaissance missions were coordinated from the control center, where a pilot and a systems operator follow the flight of the RQ-450. The equipment is almost entirely automatic, but the pilot manages all stages of the mission. “I can just put a coordinate, or determine a route, but if I want to fly it manually I can take control of the flight,” said Lt. Col. Laux.
The screens are dominated by information sent by the sensors, usually a color camera with zoom and an image system for infra-red. “For each activity there is an ideal detector,” said Lt. Col. Laux. The on-board equipment allows people to be located even if they are under the tree canopy and, depending on distance, to determine whether they are armed or not. “In certain situations, the aircraft is capable of detecting actions that have already happened, by detecting, for example, several hours later the heat that an aircraft generated in a given location,” added the commander.
During Operation Agatha, the Horus Squadron moved to a landing strip hidden in the jungle. From there, the RQ-450 operates over a vast area of the region. With a range of up to 16 hours, the plane – barely six meters long – carries out reconnaissance, surveillance, search and intelligence missions. All information is transmitted in real time to command centers in Manaus and Brasilia.
The main advantages of using a remotely piloted aircraft are to allow a mission lasting several hours, with a rotation of crews on the ground station. In addition to fatigue, the military also stay away from any threat that may exist, such as hostile fire. The RPV is also silent and difficult to locate. And, if necessary, the entire support structure and the RQ-450 itself can also be quickly flown to another location.
Operation Agatha began on August 7 and involves the Army, Navy, Air Force and other government agencies such as the Federal Police, IBAMA and the IRS. The operation is aimed at curbing illegal activities such as drug trafficking, environmental crimes, illegal mining and smuggling in the border region between Brazil and Colombia. More than 3,000 personnel were involved in these operations.
(Issued in Portuguese. Unofficial translation by defense-aerospace.com)