Drones will be the eyes of the armed forces in the field and they are buying as many as they can


Jhe armed forces are generally known to be the slowest when it comes to change. But one area that is rapidly changing within the armed forces is that of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drone warfare.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are overdrive and buying them in hordes. Such was the demand and interest from the armed forces that the DefExpo 2022 held recently in Gandhinagar looked more like a drone show than a regular defense exhibition, with almost one in two exhibitors having something to do with it. with the world of drones.

The drone push dates back to the IAF’s Mehar Baba Swarm drone competition, which launched in 2018 and ran for three years. This competition saw 154 startups compete, which led to the building of an ecosystem.

IAF This year launched the second edition of the competition.

One might have expected the IAF to lead the drone transformation, but it is the military that researches and procures a wide variety of UAVs to meet its operational needs compared to the other two services.

The drones of interest to the military vary from small tactical surveillance drones to long-range and specialized systems for high altitude, through armed and kamikaze drones, in addition to those intended for logistics.

In 2020 it was the drones that won the war for Azerbaijan. This author then said that the Indian army should focus on fully exploiting this new technology which has also proved extremely useful in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.

And given the tense standoff with China at LAC, the military has undertaken a complete overhaul of the tactics and order of battle (ORBAT) where drones now play an important role.

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When the change started

The army began by making its first major change in end of 2020 when it decided to hand over all operations of its fleet of Israeli Searcher and Heron drones to the Artillery Army Aviation Corps. This indicated a fundamental shift in the military’s understanding of how it views the future of drones or UAVs.

When drones were first purchased in the early 2000s, they were primarily used for target sightings and were therefore kept under artillery, which had a long range.

But the India-China showdown changes everything.

The military, which flew the Herons for surveillance along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), went ahead and purchased four of the latest Israeli drones, which are linked by satellite. This meant that the Herons could undertake longer missions.

The army also bought the Change drone made by Indian startup ideaForge last year and again this year. The military had described it as “force-multiplier technology” and pointed out that instead of soldiers being physically out in the freezing cold, patrolling every spot, the drones will be the eyes on the ground.

Another addition to the Army’s drone inventory was the induction of the drone swarm This year. These drones, made by Indian startups – Bengaluru-based NewSpace Research and Technology, led by former Indian Air Force officer Sameer Joshi, and Noida-based Raphe mPhibr Private Limited, were inducted by the Armored Corps and the Mechanized Infantry.

These two arms are also considering purchasing more drones and anti-drone measures and have already issued requests for information.

Ongoing upgrades to their gear also take into account both drone and counter drone capabilities.

The military has also initiated work on specialized swarm drones that can be deployed in high altitude areas like eastern Ladakh.

In October itself, sources within the defense establishment said the military had also gone ahead and issued tenders for the purchase of nearly 2,000 different types of drones, along the native route.

This includes those of more than 300 high-altitude logistics drones of various capacities, 1000 surveillance helicopters, 80 remotely piloted mini-planes, in addition to 750 unmanned aerial vehicles.

The army also order for more 100 tactical Indo-Israeli kamikaze drones, used in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, to strengthen its operational capacity along the borders with Pakistan and China, whose deliveries have already started. These drones are manufactured by a joint venture between the Israeli Elbit System and the Indian Alpha Design, which is now part of the Adani group.

The military is also considering buying more ammunition lying around and has signed another deal, defense sources said. This is new for the army because until now trailing ammunition was only in service with the IAF.

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Why drones?

Army sources explained that the drone has seen a major push within the Service due to the advantage it offers in surveillance and even punitive action. The military is trying to pair its various formations and equipment with drones so that they can form a cohesive unit.

Drones have been very useful in mountainous terrain as they give soldiers eyes and ears over the mountain passes. Each arm of the military, such as artillery, armored corps, and infantry, pursues its own drone needs.

The IAF, on the other hand, is working on much larger drone projects and plans to pair them with fighter jets. However, the opinion of the IAF is that in a tightly contested airspace with powerful air defense systems like with Pakistan or China, slow drones will not stand a chance when it comes to deep strikes. by themselves.

The Navy is considering drones to operate from its ships as well as munitions lying around in addition to those for logistics.

A great tri-service drone project is Project Cheetah. As part of this, India’s fleet of Heron drones is to be upgraded, which will include satellite navigation capability and specialized sensors.

But the icing on the cake is the plan to arm them. According to the original plan, the Israelis were to upgrade the Herons with the capability not only to undertake more specialized and longer surveillance missions, but also precision strikes. The Herons will thus have the ability to carry and launch air-to-ground precision missiles.

However, sources said the plan is for the Israelis to take on the project in India through a joint collaboration with an Indian company, which is likely to be private.

Sources said the armed forces’ strong push for drones is not only because they strongly feel they are the future, but also because there has been a strong push from the government. . In August 2021, new rules for drone technologies were notified by the Modi government.

As reported Earlier, the “Drones Rules 2021” is the government’s ideological foundation to catalyze a booming indigenous drone production industry, especially as the government strives to build a strong military-industrial complex in India. .

And that is what holds the future. With the armed forces placing order after order, more and more players are entering the market, a development that was unthinkable a few years ago.

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