In a first, advanced Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) will be manufactured in India, with leading aeronautical entity Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) set to formalise a partnership with an Israeli firm that specializes in autonomous weaponry.
The advanced Heron TP, which belongs to the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) class with an endurance of over 36 hours, will be manufactured to cater both to Indian requirements for a combat UAV and possibly exports to third nations in the future as well.
HAL is set to sign a partnership pact with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) at the upcoming DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow this week, with estimates that in the Indian market alone, there is a requirement of at least 100 drones of this type. The Heron TP is an advanced version of the Heron UAVs that are currently in service with the three forces in a reconnaissance role.
HAL, which is India’s leading aeronautical company, is looking ahead to commence full production of the armed drones, its chairman and managing director R Madhavan confirmed to ET.
Details of the weaponry onboard are still not clear as the choice of payload is usually left to the user, which in this case would be the three armed forces. Given the flexibility displayed by Israel in joint collaborations in the past, Indian air-to-ground weapons could be integrated with the Heron TPs.
Once finalized, this would be the second range of Israeli UAVs to be made in India, with a joint plant by an Adani-Elbit combine also producing the unarmed Hermes 900 class of drones for export orders from Hyderabad.
The HAL chairman also told ET that the company is actively working on another project for a 200 kg class rotor wing UAV, which among other tasks, will be useful for dropping supplies to troops posted at high altitude areas like the Siachen glacier.
The under development UAV—work on sensors, payloads and other data links has been outsourced to institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology—is being designed specially to carry a 40 kg payload to high altitude areas.
This would drastically cut down supply time for vital loads like medicine and food that are currently transported by mules and are prone to high risk, given severe weather and the dangers of avalanches that have claimed numerous lives. Israel Aerospace Industries, which says that it has conducted business deals in India that totalled close to $ 5 billion in the past five years, will be showcasing its capabilities at the DefExpo in Lucknow.
In the past, IAI has sold multiple air defence systems to India, as well as the range of Heron UAVs.