NEW DELHI — Indian defense forces have finalized a blueprint to procure for procurement of more than 5,000 UAVs unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from domestic companies over the next 10 years for about US costing around over $3 billion, and the tenders will be restricted given only to domestic companies that can tie up with foreign firms, said a Ministry of Defence ( MoD) source.

Lack of industrial expertise, combined with delays and cost overruns, have stymied past efforts to develop and produce indigenous India in past has not been successful in development and producing UAVs for tactical requirements. These efforts also were limited to state-owned companies. because of lack of expertise in the industry coupled with delays and cost overruns in the homegrown UAV develop programs.

"In the future, the private sector will be involved in a big way to meet all future requirements of UAVs," said an MoD official. of MoD.

In the next three to five years, the Indian Army proposes to equip UAVs down to the battalion level, while the Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to have fully operational squadrons both of surveillance UAVs and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV).

The plan includes the induction of In addition, all the three defense plans to induct  many "large number" of man-portable mini and micro UAVs for short-range surveillance, and NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical detection in the battlefield.

The Indian Army, Air Force and Navy IAF and the Indian Navy propose to buy tactical UAVs, (TUAV), high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAVs, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs, and medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs. within the next five to ten years.

A n Indian Navy official said the demand for MALE and tactical UAVs and TUAVs could rise. , shoot up further.

Homegrown Programs Underway

India is already developing a variety of UAVs, including Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles UACVs. The which are in different stages of design and development.Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a variety of UAVs for the services, including: Indian Army, IAF and Indian Navy and include thefollowing:

Air Force: The IAF programs includes development of Three Rustom UCAVs and one ground station at a cost of $60 million; two stealth UCAVs called autonomous unmanned research aircraft (AURA) and one ground station for at a cost of $75 million; 30 Nirbhay UAVs and unspecified numbers of Lakshya-II remotely piloted high speed target drones at a cost of $531,687.5 per unit.

• For the Navy: DRDO is currently developing Three Rustom UCAVs and one ground station for at a cost of $60 million with 12 and twelve more to come; in future ; ten 10 Medium Altitude Long Range (MALE )UAV Rustoms at a cost of $225 million; four Pawan mini UAVs for at a cost of $33.2 million; 50 air- and ship-launched Nirbhay UAVs; three naval rotary UAVs at a cost of $232 million; unspecified numbers of Netra micro UAVs for at a cost of $50,000 per unit; and Gagan tactical UAVs at a cost of $55 million with the help from Israel.

• For the Indian Army:, DRDO is currently developing Three Rustom UCAVs and one ground station at a cost of $60 million and 12 twelve more in the future; 10 ten Rustom-2 UCAVs for at a cost of $342.325 million; 12 twelve Nishant UAVs at a cost of $5 million each; and three hybrid mini-UAVs and one ground station for at a cost of $350,000.

DRDO is also supplying about 25 of Netra micro UAVs to the Indian paramilitary forces at a cost of $50,000 per unit.

An MoD source in MoD said that in the next two years, fresh tenders will be floated for a variety of UAVs, and that unspecified numbers of VTOL, Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV, Tactical UAV and UCAV and Data Link solutions for UAVs will be floated , besides a concept study has been started on future development of a bomber UAV and a fighter UAV.

Major programs that have been are finalized for the Army include are induction of 500 mini and macro UAVs and an for Army at a cost of $85 million ; unspecified number of High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE UAVs; for the Air Force are an  for Army at a cost of $175 million ; unspecified number of UCAVs,  and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle for IAF ; 95 micro unmanned aerial systems and an for IAF and Indian Navy ; unspecified number of small VTOL and mini unmanned aerial systems; for the Navy are 95 micro unmanned aerial systems and  UAS for IAF ; unspecified numbers of High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs and  for Navy costing around $200 million.

In addition, DRDO  Interestingly, the government controlled Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) also has an independent unmanned surveillance air vehicle (IUSAV) on the drawing board, which is similar to the X-45 and X-47 developed in the US and is also scouting for a partner simultaneously to develop a solar-powered HALE UAV. ohigh-altitude, long endurance (HALE) solar-powered UAV.

Currently Indian defense forces are operating Israeli-made Searcher Mark I, Searcher Mark II, Heron and Herop UAVs and the Indian-made Nishant UAV.


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

More In Air Warfare