The Indian Armed Forces is planning to purchase and deploy high-end drones in the future in order to reinforce the military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The existing fleet of IAF includes small Search Mark II drones, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and Heron medium-altitude UAVs, all developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The IAI Herons can fly up to 35,000 feet high and collect military intelligence data for more than 45 hours whereas Search Mark II drones can fly 15,000 feet high and collect data for around 20 hours.
“The higher you go, the more you see,” said Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, who served as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff until March 2017. “The precision afforded by HALE UAVs comes with top-end technology that can be expensive.”
The high-end UAVs by the United States can fly at 60,000 feet latitude and stay airborne for more than 30 hours. The Defense Ministry is talking with the United States for a provision of up to 22 sea guardian drones at roughly $2 billion cost. However, the Army officials are still waiting for a response from the regional vendors to a Request for Information for sixty remotely piloted aircraft systems, which can fly 15,000 feet for around 10 hours.
The Defense Minister recently told in the Parliament that a “Request for Information (RFI) for Predator ‘B’ Sea Guardian [drones] was issued to the US Office of Defence Cooperation on 14.11.2017 (November 14) and response is awaited.” The minister further added that, “Procurement of Predator ‘B’ Sea Guardian is being progressed under Buy (Global) category [of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016] and no transfer of technology is envisaged.”
The talks are developing for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles made by US General Atomics Aeronautical Systems although it was surfaced once India joined Missile Technology Control Regime in October 2016. The Chief Executive of General Atomics cum an American citizen of Indian origin, Vivek Lall initiated the efforts to provision the export of ‘Category 1 UAVs to the first non-NATO country’.
Vivek Lall was one among the US delegations to the Eight Annual GES 2017 Summit lead by Ivanka Trump, which was held back in November in Hyderabad. As of now, the Indian Armed Forces has put forth a requirement of more than 100 ‘Predator C’ UAVs.