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Air Force Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Remotely Piloted Aircraft systems or UAV’s or Drones are being used the world over for a variety of purposes today. Made popular by the usage of drones for combat purpose by the US Air Force, drones today are being used extensively. The term drone is widely used as a name given to an unmanned aircraft system which includes a ground control station, data link, support equipment and a remotely piloted aerial vehicle. Some other similar terms which are used for drones are Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle System (UAVS), Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) etc. Thus, drone basically implies a system that does not carry a human operator, is remotely operated from ground, is at times expendable or even catered for multiple uses and may or may not carry a lethal payload.

The Government of India had been operating military drones for quite some time. These military drones did not carry lethal payloads for attacking or neutralizing the enemy forces. - Drones have also been found to be very useful in anti- insurgent/ Maoist operations in jungles, hilly terrain and forests by providing that ‘eye in the sky’. These have been found to be very useful in keeping an eye on any suspicious movements on the border at all times of day and night. This kind of a usage on the one hand saves on manpower and at the same time provides accurate video graphic evidence of any untoward movement thereby preparing the border force to counter any nefarious designs in a pro-active manner.

The Ministry of Defence have stated in 2000 that with the UAV induction, the recce and surveillance capability both by day and night would improve significantly. The Ministry of Defence have stated that there is a programme for all weather surveillance and Electronic Warfare (EW) which was expected to be carried out in the Tenth Plan period. Force multipliers enhance the battle potential of the existing combat assets of the Air Force. The Ministry of Defence have stated that the Indian Air Force is in the process of induction of certain force multipliers. The main plan for induction includes the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the current plan period.

The Indian Air Force had Israeli Harop killer drones which can act as kamikaze drones. The forces also have Israeli Heron and Searcher-II drones which undertake combat missions and carry out routine surveillance. The Indian government has been in talks with the US government to procure combat drones armed with missiles and capable of flying for over 25 hours. The US government has cleared the sale of 22 Guardian drones to India and the country is also on course to buy another 10 Heron drones from Israel.

Referring to an increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles with better combat facilities, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said said i February 2009 the Air Force was in the process of upgrading its combating edge. “In today's security environment, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will only increase. As the payloads on these UAV's are improving, you are getting better and better results from what that UAV does up there in the sky. Of course, we are in the process of expanding our UAV's fleets in the Indian Air Force”, he said.

The Indian defense ministry approved the purchase of 10 Heron TP drones in 2016r and a final deal with the Israeli manufacturer was in the offing. However, the imposition of restrictions by the Israeli defense ministry pushed the deal towards uncertainty as India's proposal for the purchase posed a mandatory requirement of transfer of technology from the foreign vendor. In July of this year, Israel had exhibited keen interest in supplying combat drones to India with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signing memorandums of understanding (MoU) with India's Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom for the "manufacture of Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAVs in India under technology transfer from IAI & creation of futuristic UAV enterprise in India." The MoUs were signed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit which was the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel.

Israel Aerospace Industries also announced a new export-version of the Heron TP on 09 February 2017 at the AeroIndia exhibition in Bengaluru. The export version of Heron TP was meant for members of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) of which India became a member in June 2016. Meanwhile, India is currently developing its own combat drone – Ghatak. However, even if everything goes according to plan, the drone will only debut by 2025. India is under extreme pressure to instantly deliver combat drones to its armed forces as the Chinese military is set to get the first locally manufactured combat drones with the capability of evading anti-aircraft weapons by as early as 2020. "India is developing the Ghatak drone which may not be capable of operating in a heavily contested airspace because of its low observability (LO). We do need the technology to launch weapons from drones. Predator B and Heron TP are both capable of releasing weapons and acquiring these drones would give India access to the technology," Vijainder K Thakur, former squadron leader of Indian Air Force said.

In keeping with Global trends, the Indian Navy inducted Searcher and Heron UAVs on August 31, 2002. The first UAV squadron INAS 342 was commissioned at INS Garuda on January 6, 2006. By 2018 a combined case for upgrade of Heron UAV systems for three Services (IAF-10) was in progress. TAPAS-BH, a multi-mission UAV is being developed with an endurance of 24 hours to carry out the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three Armed Forces.

By mid-2020 there was a need for Heron UAVs to add to the existing fleet of drones to meet the Air Force requirements. Engaged in a boundary dispute with China in eastern Ladakh, India is planning to enhance its surveillance capabilities and firepower by placing orders for Heron surveillance drones and Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel under the emergency financial powers granted by the government. The Heron unmanned aerial vehicles are already in the Air Force, Navy, and the Army and are being used extensively at the moment by both Army surveillance and Target acquisition batteries and Air Force in the Ladakh sector.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2021 18:39:22 ZULU