Indian defence forces have prepared a blueprint for procuring more than 5,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) over the next 10 years.
According to sources close to the Defence Ministry, the government will spend nearly USD 3 billion for this purpose. Sources said that only state-run Indian companies could get tenders, as the government has no immediate plan to directly involve foreign companies in the project. However, domestic companies will be allowed to tie up with foreign firms (if they want).
India had tried to develop and produce indigenous UAVs for tactical requirements in the past. But, it failed to do so due to lack of industrial expertise.
Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi a couple of days back, a senior ministry official said that the government would invite private sector companies to join the project in the future, as it would be difficult to meet all future requirements of UAVs without their participation.
As per the blueprint, the Army will receive UAVs down to the battalion level in the next three to five years, while the Air Force will get fully operational squadrons of surveillance UAVs and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV). The two forces will also be equipped with man-portable mini and micro UAVs for short-range surveillance, and nuclear, biological, chemical detection in the battlefield. Earlier, the Army, Air Force and Navy urged the government to purchase tactical UAVs, High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) UAVs, Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAVs, and Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) UAVs for them.
The official further said that the government would call fresh tenders for a variety of UAVs after completing the study on development of a bomber UAV and a fighter UAV in the next two years.
Meanwhile, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) – a state-run agency charged with the military’s research and development – plans to produce independent unmanned surveillance air vehicle, similar to the X-45 and X-47 developed in the US, in the coming years.
Defence experts have welcomed the government’s decision, saying that the procurement of UAVs will be a big boost for the Indian Armed Forces. The move will help them strengthen security especially in border regions. Currently, the Indian forces operate Israeli-made Searcher Mark I, Searcher Mark II, Heron and Herop UAVs and the Indian-made Nishant UAV.