Weeks after Pakistan successfully deployed its own home-made 'Burraq' drone in combat, which delivered laser-guided missiles to kill at least three suspected militants in the restive northwest, India is looking to Israel to build a fleet of armed drones.
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|The Heron, a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries || |
The defence ministry has now fast-tracked plans to buy drones from Israel that can be armed to allow the military to carry out strikes at enemy positions with less risk to personnel.
The defence ministry had mooted plans to acquire Israeli Herons three years ago, but had not thought of making it in India as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' drive.
In January, the military reminded the government of the urgency of acquiring armed drones amidst rising casualties on the ground, but the government continued to sit on the proposal.
Now that Pakistan and China have developed their own drone warfare capabilities, India is feeling left out.
The government is reported to have approved the Air Force's request to acquire at least 10 Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) that can be fitted with weapons to engage targets on the ground.
The Heron deal is estimated to cost the government about $400 million.
India currently uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also acquired from Israel, along the rugged mountains of J&K for surveillance, as well as on the disputed border with China.
These armed Herons, now expected to enter service by late 2016, will give the Air Force targeted deep-strike capability.
The United States has carried out hundreds of drone strikes inside Pakistan, targeting al-Qaida and other militants in its northwest.
But the use of drones by India or Pakistan against each other could raise the prospect of a new front in the nuclear-armed neighbours' standoff over Kashmir that has twice spilled into war.