Within days of Pakistan claiming success in using the indigenous Burraq UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to strike the Taliban, it has now emerged that the Indian government has approved the purchase of Israeli armed drones Heron TP for $400 million.
India will be buying about 10 armed drones from Israel, ET reported. These drones will be operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The silent nature of its approval has sparked speculations on India bettering its military response to incidents across the border.
Not to mention, this will augment its drone strength and add a variety to the inventory. India already has a fleet of Heron UAVs, Searcher UAVs and Harpy UAVs, procured from Israel. All these are however unarmed except for Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI's) Harpy UAV that have high explosive warhead to take out enemy radars.
The decision to buy these multi-purpose, multi-system platform UAVs was reportedly taken last week. It was also revealed that the proposal to buy armed drones was pending since 2012 after the previous UPA government sat over the files. The proposal was however fast-tracked with the arrival of a new NDA government at the Centre, said reports citing unnamed officials of ministry of defence.
Heron TP is the newest version of IAI's Heron UAV. It is basically used for reconnaissance missions, but this is a multi-mission platform and boasts of working in all weather and Automatic Takeoff and Landing (ATOL) systems. It boasts of 36 hours of endurance and has a service ceiling of 45,000 ft.
It can also carry 1,000 kg payload and can be equipped with air-to-ground missiles and can engage in Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) using SATCOM. Heron TP has been compared with the US Predator UCAVs.
India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also working on an indigenous armed drone, Rustom-2. But it is still at the testing stage and armed flights are yet to take off.
New Delhi is currently hosting a team from IAI, according to a report and Indo-Israeli collaboration on drones is an area that is being explored.
India has successfully collaborated with Israel in the production of surface-to-air missile Barak 8, which is currently in the induction phase of the programme.