With the security establishment convinced that long range stand-off weapons would take precedence over direct engagement in future conflicts, New Delhi has been interested in acquiring armed medium-high altitude, long-endurance UAVs with payload capability in the form of laser-guided bombs or air-to-ground missiles. In this context, Indian military has been looking towards the US and Israel for acquiring Predators or Heron TPs.
While the US is expected to allow sale of General Atomics-developed Guardian UAV as a first step towards either the Predator or Reaper Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) to India, Tel Aviv has already made a formal offer for the Heron TP to the defence ministry. Developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, the Heron TP can fly at a height of 35,000 feet, has a flight endurance of up to 52 hours and carries a weapon payload. India has Heron UAVs in service with the air force already, where they are being used for surveillance as well as in the target acquisition and reconnaissance role.
South Block sources said while New Delhi is interested in the Heron TP, it wants the vehicle to be manufactured in the country through a joint venture with IAI under “Make in India” with total transfer of technology. “The decision on acquisition will be taken before the PM visits Tel Aviv in July on his return from the G-20 meeting in Hamburg,” said an official.