June 19, 2012
India’s armed forces are set to become highly reliant on Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), with plans to increase their use in a phased manner.
“Given the threat perceptions along the borders, the country is likely to possess a fleet of around 30 attack RPAs in the next couple of years,” a defense ministry official says.
India’s fleet of unmanned aircraft is very small, and greater quantities will be needed to meet future battlefield requirements, the official says.
Indian forces have never reported the use of attack RPAs, though they possess a few with such capabilities. All three branches of the country’s armed forces are currently planning to acquire more and more unmanned aircraft with attack capabilities, he says.
India operates Israeli Searcher tactical UAVs and Heron Medium-Altitude/Long-Endurance (MALE) UAVs.
“The Indian air force is looking at options of inducting more Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles [UCAVs] such as the Harop, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and has plans to have a UAV and UCAV squadrons in the next five years,” the official says.
India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is working on UAV requirements. The organization is currently flying the Nishant, a catapult-launched, parachute-recovered, low-altitude-surveillance UAV, as well as the Rustom 1 MALE system.
“DRDO will soon complete the Rustom 2 project, which can fly at an altitude [of] 5 kilometers and be on air for 24 hours,” he says.
The DRDO also has an Independent Unmanned Surveillance Air Vehicle (IUSAV) on the drawing board, which is similar to the X-45 and X-47 developed in the U.S., he says. Indian defense forces already have dedicated satellite links and channels that can be used by the attack UAVs.