Monday, October 16, 2023

Study estimates count of UAVs required for the three Services

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Anil Chauhan recently ordered two studies to be conducted on major military platforms used by all three services. According to defence sources these platforms are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and armoured helicopters. The study on UAVs has since been completed with a recommendation to acquire 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs and 155 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs.

“The studies, undertaken by triservice teams, are meant to optimise the number of platforms required as well as the resources and avoid duplication,” a defence source with knowledge of the matter explained. “The first study was conducted in August-September and the report has been finalised. For the second study, the Terms of Reference are currently being finalised and the study is expected to begin in a month of two,” two sources independently confirmed.

“The broad outcome of the study on UAVs was a requirement for 31 MQ-9B HALE UAVs and 155 MALE UAVs. While the deal for MQ-9Bs is in progress, the division of the 155 MALE UAVs between the three services is yet to be decided,” the second source stated.

The three services operate a large number of Israeli Heron MALE UAVs. A major upgrade to weaponise and incorporate satellite communication on these UAVs, estimated to cost ₹21000 crore, has been pending for several years. Following the study, officials have expressed confidence that this will now get cleared.

In June, the Defence Ministry cleared the procurement of 31 MQ-9B UAVs from General Atomics, 15 Sea Guardians for the Indian Navy and 16 Sky Guardians – eight each for the Indian Army and Air Force, at an estimated cost of $3,072 million though the US Foreign Military Sales route.

Last month, just ahead of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit, the Defence Ministry issued the Letter of Request (LoR) to the US Government. Based on LOR, the US Government and MoD will finalise the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) where details of equipment and terms of the procurement would be negotiated and finalised.

16/10/2023 Dinakar Peri/The Hindu

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