With eye on China, India seeks armed drones from U.S.

India had requested for the latest Avenger drones, which is basically an unmanned combat air vehicle.

December 22, 2015 09:26 am | Updated April 21, 2016 02:28 am IST - WASHINGTON:

Predator® XP is an advanced version of the MQ-1 Predator remotely-piloted aircraft being produced by the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Predator® XP is an advanced version of the MQ-1 Predator remotely-piloted aircraft being produced by the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

With an objective to bolster its arsenal amid recurring incidents of incursions by Chinese troops, India has sought the latest versions of unmanned aerial vehicles, both the armed and surveillance ones from the United States.

Industry sources familiar with New Delhi’s interest and ongoing talks between the two governments, said that India was looking for about 100 such drones worth $2 billion.

India had requested for the latest Avenger drones, which is basically an unmanned combat air vehicle, and is mainly being sought after with an eye on China. It has also sought Predator XP category which is a surveillance version for internal security issues and terrorist threats.

U.S. yet to make formal commitment

However, while talks in this regard have accelerated in the past few months, the United States has not made any formal commitment or given a public indication pending India’s application to joining Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Italy, which is upset with New Delhi’s treatment of its marines, appears to have currently blocked India becoming a member of MTCR. However, both Indian and U.S. officials were confident that they would be able to get through the last hurdle in the next few months, thus making them possible to take the defence trade — which would include armed drones — to the next level.

“Yes, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc is aware of India’s interest in Predator®-series Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA),” Vivek Lall, chief executive of the U.S. and International Strategic Development of General Atomics told PTI.

Producer of Predator series of aircraft

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems produces Predator series of remotely piloted aircraft.

“Due to U.S. export laws, the U.S. government has to approve the export of a Predator-series RPA to the Indian government. GA-ASI remains very encouraged by the recent India-U.S. bilateral engagements at the highest levels and we are hopeful that we can play an important supporting role in these discussions,” he said.

World-class intelligence likely

“Predator-series RPA could provide a world-class Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for India which would include both high-definition radar and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) coverage along India’s borders,” Mr. Lall said in response to a question.

Additionally, the RPA can perform humanitarian aid/disaster relief surveillance over both land and sea, said Mr. Lall, who had previously played a key role in the U.S. sale of high-tech military assets to India during his stint at Boeing.

Positive indication

Mr. Lall gave positive indication of General Atomics’ interest in the path-breaking DTTI and the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

“GA-ASI is very interested in opportunities to work with new international industrial partners. We focus on identifying those opportunities that leverage the strengths and growth capabilities of new partners to enhance the already impressive capabilities delivered by Predator-series RPA,” Mr. Lall said.

Highly reliable, cost-effective

“Predator-series RPA provide a highly reliable, cost-effective ISR capability that is fully inter-operable with U.S. forces and U.S. military platforms in the Indian military’s aircraft inventory,” he said.

“The aircraft can perform wide-area surveillance along India’s extensive terrestrial and marine borders,” he added.

“Extremely safe and reliable, Predator-series RPA have been updated with state-of-the-art technologies, including an automatic takeoff and landing capability, redundant flight control surfaces, enhanced avionics, and triple-redundant flight control computers,” Mr. Lall said.

DAA capability

Noting that GA-ASI also is committed to developing a Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability for its RPA, Mr. Lall said the company was currently developing a DAA system, enabling it to successfully detect and avoid cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft.

“It has most recently accomplished the task during a series of flight tests conducted in conjunction with the FAA and NASA,” he said.

Wide-area search capability

According to Mr. Lall, Predator-series RPA may be integrated with multiple ISR sensors, including state-of-the-art EO/IR cameras and GA-ASI’s Lynx® Multi-mode Radar which features a state-of-the-art Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode that offers all-weather, day/night performance for a wide-area search capability.

“Its Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode provides a quick and easy method for locating moving vehicles,” he said.

The radar’s Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) mode provides the capability to complete a variety of maritime missions successfully, including coastal surveillance, long-range surveillance, small target detection, and search and rescue operations.

Automatic Identification System

“Predator-series RPA also are equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for identifying vessels at sea. Other sensors may be integrated at the customer’s request,” Mr. Lall said.

“Additionally, Predator-series RPA are equipped with both Line-of-Sight (LOS) and Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) data link systems for over-the-horizon operations. The ability to be flown from remote locations precludes the need for a large logistics footprint at forward operating bases,” he said.

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