120 High Tech Drones for surveillance for the Indian Army! Is this India’s next major Defence Deal?

Countering enemy presence is of paramount importance, and boosting surveillance is one major aspect in doing so. This can be done with drones that enable speedy, deep and vast surveillance both at sea and at our borders.

The Indian Army now plans to buy high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to strengthen its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and improve the effectiveness of its military operations.

The plan is of acquiring a massive 120 High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) UAVs. If this comes to fruition, the Indian Army will become technologically much superior which will help in reducing casualties and completing ops more effectively.

Lieutenant General Subrata Saha (retd), army’s deputy chief till March 2017, says, “The higher you go, the more you see. The precision afforded by HALE UAVs comes with top-end technology that can be expensive.”

The IAF has projected a requirement of over 100 US-made Predator C/Avenger armed UAVs.

Such UAVs can fly at over 60,000 feet and remain airborne for over 30 hours. The existing unmanned systems are inferior technologically. They comprise of Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, and the smaller Searcher Mark II tactical drones, both built by Israel Aerospace Industries. Herons can fly at over 35,000 feet and feed airborne intelligence for over 45 hours compared to Searchers that operate at 15,000 feet for nearly 20 hours.

The army is waiting for local vendors to respond to a request for information (RFI) for 60 short-range remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) that can operate for 10 hours at 15,000 feet. India has already begun procurement talks with the US for purchase of 22 Guardian UAVs at a cost of $2 billion.

The talks of purchase of these advanced drones began only after India entered the MTCR in 2016 after the Narendra Modi government pushed for a membership. The UAVs are manufactured by US’ General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

General Atomics chief executive (US and International Strategic Development) VivekLall, has spearheaded efforts to allow the export of Category 1 UAVs to India. If India does get them, then it’ll become the first non-NATO country to acquire them.

It can be said without a doubt that what the Modi government has done and is doing for modernisation of the forces was not done during the last two decades. Howitzers, helicopters, fighter jets, frigates, even basic requirements such as bullet-proof jackets and helmets…the government is truly focused on all-round modernisation of the forces.

Vinayak Jain