NEW DELHI: To bolster India’s offensive capability on its borders, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will equip the armed forces with weaponised drones. Indian security agencies currently use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) only for reconnaissance. The MoD is on a shopping spree with projects worth $20 billion being approved recently, ranging from Rafale fighter planes to S-400 air defence systems along with fast-track approvals for Special Forces equipment such as assault rifles, light machine guns, etc.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic push—which led to India’s entry into elite club of Mission Technology Control Regime (MTCR)—has opened India’s way to procure weaponised drones armed with missiles and laser guided bombs. In June, India became the 35th member of elite MTCR, which will enable India to buy high-end missile technology.
“With the security scenario on the western border, armed drones will give an edge to security agencies. Efforts are on to give a final push to the key strategic project,” said a senior MoD official.
With the weaponised drone, the Indian military will be able to do what NATO forces did in Afghanistan; launching remote control operations and surgical strikes on terrorists’ hideouts in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Presently, Indian security agencies use Israeli UAVs and Defence Research and Development Organisation-developed Netra and Rustom drones. The project to acquire weaponsed drones was code-named Cheetah and was stuck since 2011 during the UPA regime. It could not get momentum as India was not an MTCR member. After joining MTCR, India will be able to negotiate the purchase of weaponsed drones, including the US Predators and Israeli Herron TPs.
The Integrated Defence Staff, a tri-service body, wanted to upgrade 40 UAV platforms into armed versions.
“Earlier, the US was reluctant to share weaponised versions of its Predator drone. But with changing dynamics in India-US relations, there has been a policy shift. Efforts are on bring the US to negotiate,” a defence official said.
India’s military is trying to equip itself with more unmanned technology to gather intelligence and to boost its firepower along the vast land borders with Pakistan and China. It also wants to keep a closer eye on the Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy has also upped its demand to have long-endurance armed drones to keep watch on the Indian Ocean.