23 Sep 14. India’s Panchi Prepares for Maiden Flight. Defence scientists are all set to unveil the wheeled-version of India’s homegrown unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Nishant. The UAV named Panchi (meaning bird) will be capable of taking off and landing from semi-prepared runways, thereby reducing the turnaround time between missions. Sources in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) told Express on Wednesday that Panchi has already been transported to the testing facility in Kolar. The existing version of Nishant is launched from a mobile launcher and later recovered using parachute and landing bags. This results in high impact loads on the aircraft systems, necessitating extensive inspections, checks and maintenance activities before launching again. The mission team had to deal with many challenges while rolling out Panchi and still have some critical points to clear before the first flight. ADE has already delivered four Nishants with one set of ground support systems to the Indian Army. Another eight Nishant UAVs and two sets of ground support systems are expected to join the Army fold. Low repair cost, faster software maintenance and 24X7 availability of technical support are some of the USPs being projected by the DRDO. The Army, on the other hand, wants the DRDO to ensure complete operational efficiency. (Source: Open Source Information Report/The New Indian Express)
23 Sep 14. UK warned to increase transparency of armed UAV operations.
Failure of the British government to inform Parliament of its intention to redeploy armed unmanned air vehicles outside recognised warzones may result in legal action, a charity and law firm have warned. Following a notification by the UK’s minister of state for the armed forces, Mark Francois, in July that claimed it was not necessary for Parliament to approve UAV strikes, charity Reprieve and law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn notified the government that action will be taken if it is not clear on where armed UAVs are being used.
“As is the case for the routine deployment of other military assets, the Ministry of Defence may notify Parliament of the deployment of UK Reaper remotely piloted aircraft systems, but there is no intention for parliamentary approval to be sought prior to each deployment or redeployment,” Francois said in a parliamentary response on 10 July.
In response to this, Reprieve’s legal director Kat Craig claims: “The public must be allowed to know when and where our government sends armed drones to carry out deadly strikes – if the government resists this, it will strike at the heart of our democratic traditions.”
The charity and law firm warn that the UK must not follow in the USA’s footsteps, which routinely carries out armed UAV operations in Yemen and Pakistan deemed illegal by some because they are out of a recognised warzone and are operated by non-military CIA personnel.
“It is bad enough that the UK already supports the CIA’s secret, illegal drone campaign, but there is now a real risk that Britain will follow the US down the slippery slope to an endless, global war without limits and without accountability,” Craig adds.
A Yemeni man – Saeed Al Yousefi – lives in a province frequented by CIA UAV strikes and has acted as a catalyst for this legal action, according to Reprieve; the legal actions were filed on his behalf. The Royal Air Force’s General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAVs are deployed to Afghanistan but are operated by the RAF from Creech AFB in Nevada, USA and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, UK. In July it was announced that the RAF’s 10-strong Reaper fleet would be brought into the service’s core fleet following speculation as to what would happen to the UAVs post-Afghanistan. However, the matter of where they will be utilised after forces withdraw at the end of 2014 remains to be seen. The UK has recently committed – at least in part – to supporting crises around the world, including the fight against an Islamic extremist uprising