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By Bulbul Singh

26 Dec 07. India is going global in the hunt to procure a variety of UAVs, including micro UAVs, as part of the C4I plan for the defence forces. Currently India has Israeli supplied UAVs. The new search will take it worldwide looking for UAVs.

The plan to procure variety of UAVs estimated at over $1bn is part of a long term network centric plan of the Indian defence forces to rely heavily on UAVs for reconnaissance as these assets will be networked with other assets of the forces, explained an Indian defence ministry official.

Global bids have been floated in the last one month to procure both Micro UAVs and High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs. The Indian defence forces also plan to purchase rotary wing UAVs, while inducting combat UAVs will also be part of the purchase list, said the Indian defence ministry official. Besides, specialized UAVs will also be purchased in the next two to three years which can detect and attack enemy radar.

Unspecified number of micro and HALE UAVs are being procured for surveillance in upper reaches of Jammu and Kashmir and also for surveillance in urban and semi-urban areas.

Bid have been sent to Elbit of Israel for the Skylark; IAI MALAT of Israel for the Bird Eye; Singapore Aerospace, Singapore for the FAINTAIL; EADS of France for the Tracker; AeroVironment, U.S. for the Raven, for the Micro UAVs bids.

The requirement for the HALE UAV includes capability to fly up to 35000 feet for 24 hours, cover 350 kilometres extendable up to 1000 kilometres with the use of satellite. The Indian defence forces are already in the process of purchasing dedicated military satellites in the near future as part of the C4I project.

Currently the Indian UAV fleet numbers around 150 which include Israeli Searcher-I, Searcher-II and the Heronos. In the absence of advanced surveillance systems, the UAVs are of great use for the forces, said a senior Indian Navy official adding that 12 rotary wing UAVs will be bought in the near future.

In addition to the purchase from overseas, India is also looking for global partners in co-producing UAVs.

India’s defence research laboratories, Defence Research and
Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for the Indian defence forces in association with an overseas partner. Though the project has been approved by the Indian government the overseas partner has yet to be identified. India has developed its own Nishant UAV which is currently under production for the Indian Army.

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