India is set to take delivery of four advanced Heron surveillance drones from Israel for deployment along its border with China, ANI reported.
The first two of the Heron Mark-II unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will arrive in two to three months, while the rest will follow before year’s end, the Times of India revealed.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the arrival of the medium-altitude long-endurance UAVs, the lease for which was signed in mid-January.
The three-year lease agreement was signed under “emergency powers” granted by the Indian government to the military in the midst of the border stand-off with China.
Heron’s ability to remain airborne for up to 50 hours at a stretch makes it the platform of choice to survey the 3,488-km (2,167m) India-China border.
The UAV is the upgraded version of the Heron drones the Indian Army is currently using.
The Times of India quoted a source as saying: “With their long-range radars and sensors, anti-jamming capability and the ability to reach an altitude of 35,000 ft (10,668 m), the Heron Mark-II will be able to gather all kinds of intelligence across the LAC (Line of Actual Control) without even flying close to it.”
Sea Guardian Lease
In a similar agreement signed with the US late last year, the Indian Navy leased two Sea Guardian drones to keep an eye on Chinese navy movement in the Indian Ocean, The Print reported.
The news outlet further revealed that the unarmed version of the General Atomics Predator drone could also be deployed in Ladakh.
The Indian Navy is also planning to lease 24 armed, twin-engine light utility helicopters for a period of five years.
The decision was made because of a “continuing delay” in launching a program to make, with foreign collaboration, 111 naval utility helicopters to replace the 60’s-origin single-engine Chetak rotorcraft.
Plans in the Pipeline
The Indian military has also opted to lease a range of platforms, including trainer aircraft, minesweepers, and tankers.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army is in the process of acquiring an unknown number of hand-held small drones from the US, ANI reported. The mini-drones will be given to army battalions to help soldiers better assess specific situations.