Indian Navy Heron UAV (Indian Navy)
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NEW DELHI — India has shot down an Israeli proposal to jointly develop an advanced version of the Heron UAV in India, a rarity for projects between the two nations.
This month, India’s Ministry of Defence rejected the codevelopment and coproduction proposal by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), MoD sources said.
During a meeting this month, senior MoD officials said DRDO should concentrate more on the Indo-Israeli Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) program, which is behind schedule and has technical problems.
IAI executives here were not available for comment.
This rejection illustrates the new thinking among India’s MoD, which is concentrating more on sustaining existing DRDO programs than on paying for new projects, the source said. In 2009, India and Israel agreed to jointly develop the MRSAM for use by both militaries. One prototype failed in December, the source said.
DRDO signed the codevelopment contract with IAI after the MoD failed in its efforts to procure the MRSAM through competition. No vendor was prepared to transfer technology for the system.
The Indian Air Force’s requirement is for 18 MRSAMs, estimated to cost around US $1.2 billion. The MRSAM would be a low- and medium-level, quick-reaction missile system capable of moving with mechanized forces. The system would be able to engage manned and unmanned aircraft, missiles and all types of airborne targets.
The MRSAM will have a range of more than 50 kilometers, and its warhead will have self-destruct capabilities to avoid unwanted collateral damage on the ground. The system will have an active seeker with the option of a passive seeker and an electro-optical system will be provided, which would enable the system to track targets in hostile electronic countermeasures environments.
As for the Heron, the Indian MoD has around 60 and requires more, although it hasn’t said how many.
In its proposal for the joint development of Herons, DRDO claimed it has developed a broad spectrum of knowledge on UAV subsystem technologies, including aerodynamic design, composite materials, telemetry and propulsion. The advanced Heron would have featured greater range and endurance.
The Indian Army plans to procure a variety of UAVs, including micro and nano UAVs. The Army also plans to acquire weaponized UAVs, which can be armed with precision missiles.