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Indian Navy to Acquire Unmanned Aerial and Underwater Systems

The Indian Navy is planning to acquire unmanned aerial and underwater platforms in a bid to boost its surveillance capabilities amid increasing tensions with China in the Indian Ocean region.

On Sunday, navy officials informed the media that the decision was made last month in a high-level meeting after extensive deliberations among top naval commanders.

“The key focus will be to boost the surveillance in the strategically key waterways, in sync with developments in the Indian Ocean region,” one of the officials told Economic Times.

As per the officials, the navy also aims to enhance its capabilities in long-range anti-submarine warfare and reconnaissance. Most of the acquisitions are planned to be from domestic sources.

Technological Deficiencies

The Indian Navy is also slated to get the government nod for procuring 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the United States worth $3 billion.

For years, the Indian Navy has grappled with technological deficiencies, with veterans and defense analysts suggesting the need to buy new sonar equipment, helicopters, and torpedoes.

However, after at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed at the hands of the Chinese army in Ladakh last year, the Indian government granted emergency powers to the military in December 2020 for urgent defense acquisitions.

As per an estimate by GlobalData, India is now set to spend $263 million on procuring Varunastra Mk-54 lightweight torpedoes, and heavyweight torpedoes from 2021-2031.

In an urgent bid to procure more naval equipment, India on Friday also lifted a ban on Italian firm Leonardo to purchase military equipment. An official from the Ministry of Defense said that the suspension was lifted “on the grounds of operational urgency and because of a lack of available alternatives for procuring 127mm naval guns and heavy-weight torpedoes.”

Last year, India signed a $2.6 billion deal with the US to purchase 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters from Lockheed Martin for its navy. 

Although naval procurements have increased in recent years, India still spends a meager 15 percent of its overall military expenditure on the navy.

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