India's Current & Future UAVs & UCAVs

WolfPack86

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Indian Army to get drones from Israel, America for surveillance along China border
NEW DELHI: In a major boost to its capabilities, the Indian Army is soon going to get Israeli Heron and American mini drones for upgrading its surveillance capabilities in Eastern Ladakh and other areas along the China border.

"The deals for the acquisition of the Heron surveillance drones is in the final stages and is expected to be inked in December. The Herons are going to be deployed in the Ladakh sector and they will be more advanced than the existing fleet in the Indian armed forces," government sources were quoted as saying by ANI.




The acquisition of these drones is being done under the emergency financial powers granted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to the defence forces under which they can buy equipment and systems worth ₹500 crores to upgrade their warfighting capabilities, amid ongoing border conflict with China, they added.

According to sources, the other small or mini drones are being acquired from the US that will be provided at the Battalion level to the troops on ground and the hand-operated drones would be used to attain awareness about a specific location or area in their respective areas of responsibility.




The Indian defence forces have been taking these initiatives to acquire weapon systems which can help them in the ongoing conflict with China. The last time such a facility was given to the defence forces was in 2019 right after the Balakot air strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan.

Using the same facility, the Indian Navy has leased two Predator drones which have been taken from American firm General Atomics.




The Indian Air Force had exercised the same powers to acquire a large number of Hammer air to ground standoff missiles with a strike range of around 70 kilometres.
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Tridev123

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The acquisition/leasing of Sea Guardian drones is a good move.
With an endurance of about 30 hours and having advanced optical payloads it is a force multiplier. It will reduce the work load of the P8i aircraft. Prove very useful in tracking terrorist boats and if equipped with air to surface missiles even sink them.
There is no doubt about its utility in peace time. Maybe prove useful even in wartime. Because the seas and oceans are a vast area and not all of it can be covered by Radar/SAM networks.

Whereas land borders are usually protected by Radars /SAM networks. Penetrating land borders is much more difficult. Likely that the Drones will be detected and shot down.

Armed drones have utility on land if they are not expensive and the cost /benefit ratio is positive. As an example the Israeli Suicide drones have proved very effective. But drones costing between 50 to 100 million US dollars are too expensive to be practical on land.

For reconnaissance purposes drones are very useful if they operate in regions with nil enemy anti aircraft defences.
 

WolfPack86

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Indian Navy inducts two American drones on lease, could add more later
New Delhi: In a first, India has inducted two American drones — Sea Guardian, unarmed version of the deadly Predator series — into the Navy on lease under the emergency procurement in the backdrop of the tensions with China in Ladakh, ThePrint has learnt.

Even though the drones, MQ-9 Guardian/Predator-B, have been leased from an American firm, General Atomics, for a year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region, it could also be used in Ladakh, top defence sources said.

Sources told ThePrint the two drones, flying with Indian Navy logo, are under the full operational control of the force and it will have exclusive access to all the information that the drone will capture.

They added the only role of the American firm is to ensure availability of the two drones based on the contract signed.

This means that the Sea Guardians will be flown by Indian Navy personnel and all data acquired by the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will be the sole property of India.

The team from the US firm, which is currently in India as part of the deal, will only be doing the maintenance work for the two machines.

“The two drones are the unarmed versions and have been inducted into flying operations on 21 November at Indian Navy base at INS Rajali. The drones arrived in India earlier this month,” a senior officer in the know said.

This is the first defence system that has been taken on lease under the new Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 introduced this year.

The only other defence equipment on lease is the Chakra nuclear submarine from Russia.

Drones have endurance of flying for over 30 hours
Asked if more drones could be brought on lease, a source said: “It all depends on the experience of these two drones. We are right now going to operate these two.”

Sources said the two UAVs, which have an endurance of flying for over 30 hours, have already been operationally deployed in the Indian Ocean. They also said the two drones will be flown extensively.

“The long endurance of the drones gives us a huge jump in our ability to track various things. We have been flying the P8I aircraft. These drones will now supplement the work done by the American aircraft and much more too,” a second source said.

Drone purchase from US
The Indian defence establishment is currently divided on the drone purchase from the US.

While earlier India was eyeing both Sea Guardians for the Navy and the armed Predator B for attack options, there is a growing feeling that both surveillance and attack can be done by the same drone only.

This is because of the prohibitive price involving the American drones. Earlier, 22 Sea Guardians were being priced at over $2 billion. The number for Sea Guardians was eventually brought down to just 12.

The US had in 2018 agreed to supply India the Sea Guardians, but the high cost meant that the process had slowed down.
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WolfPack86

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‘HALE’ and hearty: What the Navy has been doing with its newly leased US drones
One of the swiftest and most unusual acquisitions of military platforms this year has been the induction of two MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones acquired from the US and deployed in long-range missions over the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh, on December 3, confirmed that the navy had acquired two ‘pre-production model’ US-built MQ-9B SeaGuardians on lease and had been operating them over the past three weeks. “They have an endurance of 33 hours and we have been using them for sustained surveillance over large reaches of the Indian Ocean Region,” Admiral Singh said at his annual press conference ahead of Navy Day (December 4).

The drones were being maintained by personnel from US military firm General Atomics, the navy chief said. He sought to alleviate concerns raised by one of the other services on the security of the sensor data obtained by the leased drones. “The picture comes only to us,” Admiral Singh said. “We have safeguarded that part.”

The drones are based at INS Rajali, a naval airbase at Arakkonam, 80 km east of Chennai.

The lease option was concluded in less than two months. The Defence Acquisition Procedure unveiled by the defence ministry in September this year has a provision for leasing military equipment to bridge equipment shortfalls. “Leasing helps us greatly as it allows us to bridge equipment shortfalls without having to wait for lengthy procurements to be concluded,” a senior naval official said.

The SeaGuardian is called a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) platform as it can fly 40,000 feet above the sea and remain airborne for over 30 hours. Admiral Singh confirmed that the navy is the lead service in a tri-services proposal to acquire up to 30 SeaGuardian/ SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). The deal, first reported by INDIA TODAY, will see each of the three services acquiring 10 drones each for a total order size of Rs 22,000 crore.

The SeaGuardian, which will eventually be purchased, will allow the navy to perform broad area maritime surveillance at a fraction of the cost of the bigger US-built P-8I ‘Poseidon’— a militarised variant of the Boeing 737 passenger jet. General Atomics says the per hour operating costs of the SeaGuardian are only about 15 per cent of that of the P-8I—$5,000 (about Rs 3.7 lakh) per hour versus $35,000 (about Rs 26 lakh) per hour. The drones will also form part of an elaborate Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) grid that the navy is putting in place with three US-built platforms—shore-based SeaGuardians and P-8Is and shipborne MH-60R multirole helicopters. All three platforms ‘talk’ to each other and carry identical sonobuoys which, when dropped into the water, are capable of detecting enemy submarines. Contacts obtained by one of these platforms can be attacked by the other platforms using torpedoes and depth charges.

The navy’s present fleet of Israeli-built Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs has a ceiling of 30,000 feet and an endurance of over 30 hours but lack the ability to be steered by satellite—which means they have to be deployed in line of sight of ground stations.
 

WolfPack86

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Indian Army Hands Landmark $20-Mil Deal To Indian Drone-maker IdeaForge
In what can only be interpreted as the Indian Army choosing to closing the door firmly on foreign drone products that were inbound to meet a basic long-standing infantry requirement at high altitudes, the Indian Army has just awarded a landmark $20 million (nearly ₹140 crore) contract to Indian drone maker ideaForge for an undisclosed number of its SWITCH tactical drones for use by infantry troops and special forces deployed at high altitudes.

The number of SWITCH drones to be supplied is likely in the hundreds, with each 6.5 kg unmanned air vehicle capable of vertical take-off, conventional flight, 2-hour endurance and surveillance out to 15 km from altitudes of 4,000 meters. Proven across several rounds of trials, and competing against foreign offerings, the Indian SWITCH drones, built in Maharashtra, will be delivered to the Army very quickly under fast track protocols, with the order completed over the next year. The drones will be deployed on priority to Indian Army troops and special forces units deployed across the friction points of eastern Ladakh.

While the Indian armed forces have inducted ideaForge drones in the past, this is by far the biggest single order the company has landed. The fact that the contract is from its single biggest potential customer is major affirmation for the company, the ‘Buy Indian’ ideal and the big validation this will trigger for exports of Indian drone products.

In July this year, Livefist interviewed IdeaForge CEO Ankit Mehta at a time when the Switch was in trials and under consideration by the Army. Today’s contract reveal is the end result of those trials held in Ladakh. IdeaForge’s SWITCH was chosen over offerings from India’s Tata Group, Dynamatic Technologies Ltd (DTL), VTOL Aviation and Israel’s Elbit. While not certain, the contract award potentially brings to an end a long-standing push to import 200 U.S-built RQ-11 Raven infantry drones.

“ideaForge has been awarded this contract after it emerged as the only vendor that qualified the operational requirements in an evaluation done in real-world conditions, for a fast-track procurement. The contract marks a strategic shift in the Indian defence procurement process as the Indian Army goes on an aggressive modernization drive. It has also cemented ideaForge’s position as India’s largest manufacturer of drones for defence, homeland security and industrial applications,” the company said in a statement shared with Livefist.

According to IdeaForge, the Switch is a VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) drone that can be deployed at high altitude and harsh environments for day and night surveillance in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, with the highest time on target compared to any other UAV in its class.

Speaking on the landmark contract, Mehta said in a statement shared first with Livefist, “SWITCH UAV is the culmination of insights and knowledge we have gained over years of experience in helping the Indian Forces operationalize UAVs in their ranks. The trials saw about a dozen national and global players compete to meet the operational requirements. SWITCH UAV is the only product that cleared the Indian Army’s stringent product trials and surpassed expectations. It is a testimony of the fact that our systems are built like a bird and tested like a tank. Our systems are fully ready to serve nations that seek to protect their territorial sovereignty.”

Today’s contract also settles suspicions that the Indian Army planned to import tactical drones, instead of induct indigenous products that met all requirements. In July this year, Livefist had reported on how the Army had sought information from foreign vendors for a fast-track procurement of high altitude drones. You can read that detailed report here.

A combination of world-class technology and a deep understanding of customer requirements has resulted in ideaForge bagging this contract against global competition. With the backing of reputed institutional investors such as WRVI, Infosys and Qualcomm, ideaForge is all set to grow rapidly. We plan to work with like-minded investors and partners to achieve our vision of premier drone company serving enterprise, security and surveillance market globally”, said Ganapathy Subramaniam, Partner with WRVI Venture Capital who also serves as Executive Chairman at ideaForge.
 

WolfPack86

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Indian firm bags Army’s Rs 140-crore deal for high altitude UAVs, eyes exports too
The Army has ordered an advanced version of SWITCH tactical drones, which are made to operate in high altitude areas like Ladakh. The delivery will take over a year.

New Delhi:
The Army has awarded a $20 million deal (around Rs 140 crore) to an Indian firm, ideaForge, for an undisclosed number of the advanced version of SWITCH tactical drones.

These specialised drones are made to operate in high altitude areas like Ladakh, for use by infantry soldiers and Special Forces. India has been engaged in a border stand-off with China at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh region since April-May last year.

The niche drone maker won the contract after competing with Israel’s top UAV manufacturer Elbit, besides the Tata Group, Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, Asteria Aerospace and VTOL Aviation.

The firm will deliver the systems, which are used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), over a period of one year, according to a company statement Thursday.

“ideaForge has been awarded this contract after it emerged as the only vendor that qualified the operational requirements in an evaluation done in real-world conditions, for a fast-track procurement,” the statement said.

It added that the contract marks a strategic shift in the Indian defence procurement process as the Army goes on an aggressive modernisation drive.

The drone details
The standard man portable SWITCH weighs 6.5 kg and is capable of vertical take-off, conventional flight with an endurance of 2 hours. It can carry out surveillance up to 15 km from altitudes of 4,000 meters. It has a maximum operating altitude of 1000 metres and has a wind resistance up to 10.8 knots or 20 km per hour.

The SWITCH is a Fixed Wing VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) UAV which can be deployed at high altitude and harsh environments for day and night surveillance in ISR missions. It has a daylight payload of 1280×720 pixels, 25x Optical Zoom and has a thermal payload of 640×480 pixels.

However, the Army has ordered an advanced version of this drone, which comes with extended endurance and covers 700 sq km from each take off point. It comes with encrypted communication and long range target detection with HD optical zoom payload.

ideaForge aims for exports
Speaking to ThePrint, ideaForge chief executive Ankit Mehta said the firm was “super excited” about the deal, adding that the SWITCH UAV is the only product that cleared the Army’s stringent product trials and surpassed expectations.

“It is a testimony of the fact that our systems are built like a bird and tested like a tank. Our systems are fully ready to serve nations that seek to protect their territorial sovereignty,” he said.

Asked if he is also looking at exports, Mehta said the company is in talks with certain countries. He added that the Army’s contract will push its case before other nations since everyone is aware of how stringent Indian defence trials are.

“We are keen on exports. Everyone understands that Indian trails are vigorous. We have had consultations and demonstrations for some other countries too,” he said. Mehta added that the indigenous content of the system is “much higher” than the requirements stated by the Services.

The company is backed by institutional investors such as WRVI, Infosys and Qualcomm.
 

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