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MoD kicks-off procurement of more than 5000 UAVs after IAI deal

A Defence Ministry blueprint to procure more than 5,000 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for about $3 billion over the next 10 years, appears to have got off the mark, with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) teaming up with Bengaluru-based Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom Systems, in a deal that will cater to the production, assembly and support of UAVs in India.

UAVs have become a staple for surveillance activities at India’s border, and have been identified as an essential tool for the three military services. At present, the defence forces operate Israeli-made Searcher Mark I, Searcher Mark II, Heron and Herop UAVs, as well as the Indian-made Nishant.

In order to fill an immediate requirement, the Defence Ministry had, in July 2016, issued a combined tri-service requirement for the acquisition of 150 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs. The request for information called for the UAVs to be procured under the Make in India initiative, with sources indicating the tenders would be restricted to domestic companies that teamed up with foreign firms.

Shalom Revivo, Director, Sales and Marketing, IAI, told BusinessLine that the collaboration agreements “are based on the transfer of technology for the benefit of local production, as part of the Indian government’s Make in India policy.”

Given the long, historical ties between IAI and India, and India being IAI’s “main strategic customer for 25 years”, he said it is the company’s intention to transfer a significant part of its UAV activity to India in the near future.

This would bode well for the forces, with sources indicating that the Indian Army proposes to equip UAVs to its battalion, while the Air Force plans to have fully operational squadrons of surveillance UAVs. The Navy, too, has a huge demand demand for MALE and tactical UAVs.

IAI has said: “The combination of DTL’s superior aerospace production technologies and experience with UAVs in India, Elcom’s technology platforms in the fields of electronics and communications, and IAI’s UAV technologies and experience..” would be able to usher in the best of products for the Indian market.

The deal envisages creation of a UAV-manufacturing facility in India, as also a training centre to provide the requisite talent pool.

Though the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a variety of UAVs, sources indicated that more tenders will be soon floated for a variety of UAVs, given the huge requirement by the forces.

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