India will be the first country outside the NATO alliance to get the MQ-9 Reaper armed UAVs. India is set to finalise a long-conceived proposal to procure 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services at an estimated cost of over $3 billion (around Rs 22,000 crore. The proposal to acquire the MQ-9B long-endurance drones, armed with air-to-ground missiles, is likely to be cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in the next few weeks following which it will be placed before the PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security. The procurement proposal has been moved by the Indian Navy and all three services are likely to get 10 drones each.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is basically one of the Remote Sensing Platforms are evolving as an important, reasonable, component of precision farming and crop development. It allows observer and/or sensor to be above the target/phenomena of interest. UAV is an autonomous aerial vehicle which is piloted remotely and uses aerodynamic forces for lifting and can carry various types of payloads. The UAV market is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. Role of UAVs in defence sector is ever-increasing on account of new additionalities being added to them making them fit for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare and strike missions.
It is important to point out that there is slight difference between drone and UAV. Drone has zero intelligence. No communication during fly and the results such as photographs or images are typically not obtained until it is returned to the base. On the other hand, UAV have some ability of performing ‘automatic intelligence’ in the form of communication capacity with its controller and to return payload data like images of different spectral resolutions, together with its different state of information.
In 2002, the Indian Navy procured the maritime versions of Searcher MK II and Heron from Israel. In 2003, post-training of operator crew in Israel, an Intensive Flying Trial Unit (IFTU) was established at Kochi. After three years of extensive flying and trials, the first UAV Squadron in the Indian Navy was commissioned on Jannuary 6, 2006 as INAS 342. Capable of beaming real-time live pictures of maritime targets to commands ashore, these UAVs will enhance the joint war-waging capability in the region by synergising capabilities of Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and local authorities.
Nishant, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) developed by DRDO for Indian Army, was successfully flight-tested near Kolar in Karnataka in mid-2008. The state-of-the-art UAV has been developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment, Bangalore jointly with Defence Electronics Application Laboratory, Dehra Dun, Research and Development (Engineers), Pune and Aerial Delivery Research & Development Establishment, Agra. Nishant is designed and developed for surveillance, reconnaissance and real time engagement of artillery fire, laser designators and electronic intelligence. It weighs 375 kgs with a payload component of 45 kgs.
In December 2017 the Indian government initiated the procurement of 22 naval surveillance drones from the US for approximately $2 billion. The decision came five months after the purchase proposal was approved by the Trump administration. "A request for Information (RFI) for Predator 'B' Sea Guardian was issued to the US Office of Defense Cooperation on November 14 and the response is awaited," Subhash Bhamre, India's Minister of State for Defense informed the Parliament on 20 December 2017. The Minister also informed that the deal does not involve the transfer of critical technology to India. "Procurement of Predator 'B' Sea Guardian is being progressed under Buy (Global) category and no transfer of technology is envisaged," Bhamre added. The MQ-9B Guardian UAV is a variant of the MQ-9 Reaper drone (also called the Predator B), but it replaces the Reaper's missiles with several radar platforms and is primarily meant for maritime search operations. On 18 October 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clarified that the US was ready to share technology with India but would not part with some closely guarded defense technologies as it would hurt the country's competitive advantage. The Indian Navy was in dire need of high-altitude, long-endurance drones that can be used for surveillance as well as for precision strikes in the Indian Ocean Region. However, the 22 UAVs offered by the US are non-lethal in nature and can fly non-stop for over 27 hours for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions only. To fill this gap, India is developing its own drone "Rustom II." "The development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Rustom-II is an indigenous effort wherein the majority of sub-systems like airframe, landing gear, avionics systems, flight control systems and data link systems have been developed indigenously by various private industries," the Minister of State for Defense informed the Parliament. However, the propulsion systems and sensor systems of the Rustom II are being imported which the state-owned labs have promised to develop on their own at a later stage. Two General Atomics “Predator B” UAVs, also called the MQ-9 Reaper Sea Guardian, were leased by the Indian Navy in November 2020 from the USA for extended surveillance in the Indian Ocean. These drones are operating from INS Rajali near Arkonnam on the east coast. They are under the operational control of Indian Navy personnel and all data acquired is for Indian retention. The technical maintenance support for these is being provided by the company technicians. The drones with 30 hours of endurance are already flying operational missions. In The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was set to accord Acceptance of Necessity (AON) approval for 30 more drones at the next meeting of its Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), likely in January 2021. This would have to be followed by the Letter of Request (LoR) to the US Navy and Department of Defense to formally initiate the process, and the US would then respond with a Letter of Acceptance (LOA). The in-principle agreement reportedly already exists. I
In June 2017, the US State Department approved the sale of 22 UAVs to India, costing around $2-3 billion. I\in 2019, the US administration of President Donald Trump had approved the sale of Predator B armed drones to India. As of February 2020, a deal to purchase 30 drones with 10 drones for each of the three Indian armed services, was expected to sign by the end of the fiscal year. In November 2020, the Indian Navy began operating two leased MQ-9B SeaGuardians. The lease agreement is valid for one year. The IAF and Indian Army are likely to get the SkyGuardian, also called the Certifiable Predator B. The Indian Navy will require the SeaGuardian which is essentially the same with Multimode 360 Maritime Surface Search Radar and Automatic identification system (AIS). The MQ-9B will have some India specific systems. IAF and the Indian Army may also initially get two drones each for familiarisation and becoming part of the eco-system.
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