The conference focussed on the development, employment and potential of UAVs in India, including unmanned combat air vehicles, micro and mini UAVs, unmanned ground vehicles (surveillance, EOD, load-carrying), payloads (sensors, EW, weapons), ground stations (data links, launch and recovery systems), aerial targets and maritime unmanned systems.
The Indian military depends heavily on UAVs for surveillance. The requirement has become more pronounced for the years ahead, and the IAF alone plans to buy about 300 additional UAVs, including combat rotary and micro-UAVs.
The infantry has decided to scale three mini UAVs to every infantry battalion. Within the next three years the Indian defence ministry will stage five additional tenders for the purchase of a combined 600 mini UAS systems to be operated by the air force, infantry and artillery units and the federal police. These deals will be worth a total of $1.25 billion, with all production to be performed in India.
A Road Map for the Future
Successful utilization of UAVs in internal security operations and regular use in No-War-No-Peace scenario on the India-Pakistan and India-China borders everyday, coupled with India's aviation industry boom, is expected to provide UAV development programmes the necessary foundation to succeed in the immediate future. In the future, the utilization of UAVs in India's military is expected to eventually spillover to commercial industries as well.
The armed forces are convinced that UAV technology is very useful and successful in different types of operations. In addition, maritime operations, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance operations in India are boosting the demand for medium altitude long endurance UAVs and tactical UAVs
India's lack of focus and technological capabilities drives the need for a concerted framework for current and future UAV development programmes. To overcome this and become a major participant in the Asia Pacific UAV industry, several institutions, including the DRDO, have been tasked up by the government to focus exclusively on UAV developments.
The Indian Armed Forces have planned batteries of UAVs, comprising of eight aerial systems, with each divisional artillery brigade. Further, each Corps must have a Loitering Missile Battery comprising of eight missiles with associated ground systems. At the tactical level, there is a need for Mini UAVs, which would be hand launched have an endurance of two hours, range of 10 km and have a pay load which can provide good details over the area the vehicle operates. In the initial stages it would suffice if each infantry battalion, combat group and artillery regiment be provided with two systems each having two aerial vehicles.
The Air Force must acquire additional UCAVs and develop a fighter UCAV. The Navy must look at Rotary UAVs and UCAVs. The future would also see the entry of directed energy weapons.
While the requirements are clear, the moot point is what the road map for their procurement. It would be prudent if India’s inescapable requirements are sourced from the Original Equipment Manufacturer and subsequent requirements be delivered through Joint Ventures.