India’s first missile armed drones that will give it the capability to carry out stand off 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, as reported by ET.
Prime Minister Narender Modi is heading for a historic visit to Israel 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 have told ET 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 AeroIndia show in Bengaluru in February. As reported by ET on September 11, 2015, the defence ministry had quietly approved the purchase of 10 missile-armed drones from Israel for $400 million under directions from the highest levels of government.
The armed forces had proposed buying the same armed drones in 2012. But that proposal did not get political backing in UPA-2.
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 missilesâ€”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.
Armed drones will give India the option of taking out large terrorist camps or individual targets in hostile territory with minimal risk. India is also pursuing an indigenous drone programmeâ€”Rustom 2â€”that is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.