Indian Military plans fleet of 400 armed combat drones: Report

Indian Military plans fleet of 400 armed combat drones: Report

NEW DELHI: The Indian Armed Forces over the next decade want over 400 drones, including combat and submarine-launched remotely piloted aircraft, as well as directed energy weapons (DEWs) like high-energy lasers and high-powered microwaves capable of destroying enemy targets and even satellites.

Several such military capabilities <link>have been identified in the defence ministry's new "Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap-2018" to provide the industry with an overview of the country's offensive and defensive military requirements up to the late 2020s.

"This roadmap may guide the industry in planning or initiating technology development, partnerships and production arrangements. While pursuing any development or collaboration, the Indian industry should accord due importance to the government's thrust towards 'Make in India'," says the 82-page document.

Apart from obvious necessities ranging from next-generation submarines, destroyers and frigates to missiles, infantry weapons, specialized ammunition and CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) defence systems, the document focuses on a wide variety of unmanned aerial vehicles <link>(UAVs) or drones needed by the armed forces.

Drones are major force-multipliers in modern-day warfare for real-time surveillance as well as hitting high-value enemy targets. The armed forces currently have over 200 drones, the bulk of them imported from Israel for long-range surveillance and precision-targeting. They also have some Israeli Harop "killer" or Kamikaze drones, which act as cruise missiles by exploding into enemy targets and radars.

Even as DRDO works on developing the Ghatak stealth UCAVs <link> (combat drones) under a Rs 2,650 crore project, the roadmap says the Army and Navy will need "more than 30" combat remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA).

"The medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) combat RPA should have the capability to fly up to 30,000-feet altitude, with extended satellite communication ranges and endurance of more than 24 hours," says the document. The drones should be capable of firing missiles at land and maritime targets from over 20-km away.

Moreover, the Army and Navy require 100-150 MALE spy drones, with the former also needing 55-70 stealth, 50 short-range and 30 hybrid RPAs. The Navy, in turn, also wants over 50 HALE (high-altitude, long endurance) drones that can be launched vertically from warships as well as 10 submarine-launched RPAs.

As for DEWS, which may be strategic game-changers in future wars, the roadmap says the Army and IAF need at least 20 "tactical high-energy laser systems" that can destroy "small aerial targets", electronic warfare and radars systems at a range of 6-8 km in Phase-I.

In Phase-II, the laser systems should have a range of over 20-km to take on "soft-skinned" vehicles and troops as well as satellites from ground and aerial platforms. Similarly, at least 20 high-power electromagnetic weapon systems are required for the forces, with 6-8 km range in Phase-I and over 15-km in Phase-II.

As reported by TOI earlier,

DRDO is working on

several DEW projects, ranging from the vehicle-mounted "Aditya" gas dynamic laser systems to "chemical oxygen iodine" and "high-power fiber" lasers. But they are some distance away from becoming fully-operational. Times of India