India’s first missile armed drones that will give it the capability to carry out standoff cross-border strikes are ready in Israel; ahead of the first ever visit to the nation by an Indian prime minister.
The Heron TP-armed drones, capable of detecting, tracking and taking down targets with air to ground missiles, have been on the armed forces wish list for years, before the programme was fast tracked in September 2015.
Prime Minister Narendera Modi is heading for a visit to the Jewish State in July and is expected to discuss and take forward the growing strategic partnership between the two nations.
One of India’s top weapons suppliers, Israel has been most enthusiastic on the ‘Make in India’ initiative and is keen to shift its production lines in partnership with the Indian private sector.
Sources said that 10 Heron TP-armed drones, which were under the procurement process since 2015, are now ready for delivery. The drones could be brought into service by India at the earliest but the final milestone payment is still pending.
Israel had displayed the Heron TP drone at the Aero India show in Bangalore in February. The defense ministry had quietly approved the purchase of 10 missile-armed drones from Israel for $400 million under directions from the highest levels of government.
Similar to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Heron TPs are capable of reconnaissance, combat and support roles, carrying a payload of air -to-ground missiles to take down targets deep in enemy territory.
The Indian Air Force also has a fleet of Harpy UAVs from Israel but these are not equipped with missiles—they are self-destructing systems primarily tasked with taking out enemy radar positions. India also operates a fleet of unarmed Heron and Searcher UAVs for surveillance and intelligence gathering.