The Indian defence ministry on 15JUN12 announced that a total of 95 miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be purchased in the near future to improve the aerial surveillance capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN). Sources close to the MoD said that the process for the procurement has already started, and that the bidding process is likely to be initiated by the beginning of next year.
The Indian officials said that they intend to procure 60 UAVs for the IAF, while the remaining 35 units are meant for use by the IN. The defence ministry have already placed certain conditions for the future UAV deal, insisting that the weight of the UAV should not be more than 5.50 lb and the entire set, including the operational kit should not weigh more than 33 lb.
The original RFI was dispatched in July 2010.
The UAVs are required to have fuel- or battery-operated engines and be capable of being hand-launched. They must also be fitted with charged-coupled device cameras and forward-looking infrared payloads.
The army plans on inducting some of the manportable UAVs armed with ordnance into its special forces units for covert missions behind enemy lines, counter-terrorist operations, ‘beyond the hill’ surveillance and for strikes on high-value military targets. This is planned to take place by the end of the 12th five-year defence plan which finishes in 2017, and is in keeping with the army’s revised ‘cold start’ doctrine of going on the offensive in a limited war scenario to achieve negotiable military gains in a nuclear weapon environment.
The IAF is already in the possession of its own locally made UAV, the DRDO Nishant. The drone was developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a branch of the Indian defence manufacturer Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Nishant conducted its first successful test flight on 3rd February, 2011. The DRDO is currently trying to develop High Altitude Long Range combat UAVs.
(JDW 05AUG10; ID15JUN12)