Present and Future Of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Capabilities In India
The History of the UAV
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been around for a long time. At the initial stage the UAV was found useful in roles such as ordinary tactical reconnaissance and later photographic recce for strategic missions. However, its full-fledged role developed gradually from being a benign collector of strategic intelligence to that of one of the effective homeland security solutions. The UAV with an excellent endurance can carry an impressive load and it can also be used in diverse scenarios. The future is also very bright for the modern UAV in all the areas of its present expertise.
Emerging Trends of the UAV
The role of the UAV in its different versions in Afghanistan and Iraq has stamped upon it its perpetuity. It performed both its roles of strategic gathering of intelligence and also flew in combat operations in the two countries. It exhibited its prowess in tracking, engaging and assessing kills claimed by the armed forces. It has also shown off its capability of helping fight the global battle against terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This has in turn given a huge boost to security solutions products manufacturers across the globe.
With the help of current levels of technology the UAV is constantly enlarging its role in diverse types of combat operations with constant increase in altitude, range and loiter time over the Tactical Battle Area or TBA. It is now able to provide LOS or line-of-sight recce and fire as well as watch over the target area for assessment.
Use of UAVs such as the Global Hawk and the Predator class has established their dominance over diverse missions that include both strategic recce and combat operations during the ops “Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom”. What is truly amazing is that some of these advanced versions of UAVs were flown for kills halfway across the world, some 8000 miles away in Afghanistan and Iraq and commandeered from stations in California and Nevada.
India and its UAVs
India has also been deploying its UAVs such as the Israeli Harop range of armed UAVs with capabilities that include self – destruction as well as the Israeli Heron and Searcher II. India has not been successful in developing the Nishant tactical UAV for the army but is presently engaged in the development of UAVs in the class of the Predator/Heron. There is going on a continuous upgrade in India’s anti-terror security & access control systems. The new version is known as Rustom which is in the 1100/1300 kg class with a 300 km range and altitude capability of 35000 ft. The Rustomis in three versions:
- Rustom I the tactical UAV
- Rustom H to replace Heron
- Rustom 2 the combat UAV.
Planned under the Make in India programme, the Rustom series will be tasked to India’s public-private combine involving leading security solutions products manufacturerssuch asBharat Electronics, HAL, Larsen & Toubro and the Tatas.
India is also developing its indigenous drones known as the AURA or the Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft. It is understood that the AURA has already accomplished what India set out to achieve in its research to develop the future UCAVs. The DRDO is now developing the Ghatak, with high-speed and stealth capability and armed with “autonomously seeking, identifying and destroying targets, with missiles, bombs and PGMs or Precision Guided Missiles”. This may however take more than 10 years to be completed. There has been no movement in India’s procurement of micro/mini UAVs for use in tactical areas by the Indian Army. Nothing has been heard in the procurement of Miniature UAVs or MAVs that are said to be able to evade the enemy radar besides being able to carry explosives so that they can neutralize targets that are small but high in value.
In the future India will develop and procure more UAVs in order to strengthen its power to inflict damage in covert operations against its enemies. The homeland security solutions provided in Indian manufacturers will soon witness global acceptance and recognition. These will naturally include the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles or the UCAVs that possess the ability to launch missiles against targets that have been assigned. Future UAVs will have larger endurance and may be solar powered while being more survivable in the combat area. The strategic UAVs will also be larger in size while having more lethality and being employable in multiple missions. Future advancements may include the use of laser radar and MTI or moving target indicator besides synthetic aperture radar. They will definitely be stealthier and more expendable.