Indian representatives have wrapped up price negotiations for a contract to upgrade and arm the country’s fleet of Heron drones. The Print reported that a final decision on whether to sign the deal will be made this fiscal year (April 1 to March 31), citing sources.
The Rupees 5,000 crore ($670 million) planned upgrade, called Project Cheetah, goes back to 2013 and entailed several rounds of discussions.
The upgrade involves equipping India’s 65 Heron drones, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, with “satellite navigation and specialized sensors,” the Indian outlet revealed.
The surveillance and reconnaissance drone will also be equipped with anti-personnel and anti-armor air-to-ground missiles to carry out precision strikes.
This development occurs as the Indian military has reportedly agreed to acquire 30 armed MQ-9B drones from the US.
Indian army is also set to receive four Heron Mark-II armed drones from Israel in a three year-lease in a few months.
Heron Mark-II on Lease
The Mark-II is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing systems and satellite communication for extended range.
It is the upgraded version of the Heron drones the Indian military is currently using.
The UAV can remain airborne for 50 hours and reach an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) at a maximum speed of 140 knots (259 kilometers/hour).
It has not been revealed whether the upgraded Indian Heron drones will be identical to the Mark-II.