Running into problems of supply even as the military establishment begins to import drone technology, India is working full speed to develop its own line of unmanned aerial vehicles.
In the last five years, India has accounted for seven percent of the world’s arms imports. To counter what they see as the rapidly transforming nature of ‘asymmetric’ as well as the standard strategic threats, the Indian armed forces are actively seeking to purchase the latest technologies and weaponry. Accordingly, the military has started a massive modernisation drive phased over the next 12 years at the cost of a whopping USD 200 billion. A large part of this is earmarked for augmenting India’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, commonly known as ‘drones’.
Since the intelligence failures that led to the 1999 Kargil conflict and the 2002 attack on the Parliament house in New Delhi, the Indian military inducted over 100 UAVs into its forces – mainly Israeli-built UAVs known as the Searcher and the Heron, used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (IRS). Evidently satisfied with their experience of drones, all three wings of the armed forces are now planning a major induction of UAVs, for which requests for information (RIF) were floated in last one year. There are multiple reasons behind this. First, technologically advanced militaries across the world have incorporated UAVs as a new critical component that can be used to track communications, enemy movement, real-time data transmission and detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Some can also act as missiles for precision strikes on enemy targets.
Further, UAVs allow for better manoeuvrability and eliminate the ‘G-force’ limitations that affect to piloted aircrafts. The absence of an onboard human crew also has its obvious advantages in cases of crashes over enemy territory. Apart from its military utility, UAVs are also in demand as they are cheaper than manned systems.