Sources close to the Indian defense ministry in New Delhi disclosed Wednesday, March 31, that a military purchasing mission was in Israel recently to expedite the purchase of a large number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) armed with missiles, for deployment on its front lines against Pakistan.
Indian sources did not disclose the size of the order placed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) – running to hundreds of millions of dollars – but they made no secret of their intention to build up their fleet of reconnaissance and killer drones for a possible duel against US-armed Predators in the hands of Pakistani forces.
Islamabad is pushing Washington hard for strategic Predator drones, like those the US employs against al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's tribal districts on the Afghan border.
From Israel, New Delhi has commissioned a few more drones of the Heron MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) type, as well as Searcher-II and Harpy `killer' drones designed to detect and destroy enemy radars by functioning like cruise missiles.
Our military sources report that their reconnaissance and targeting features are sought by India for its response should the Americans decide to let Pakistan have drones capable of firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. New Delhi made its order urgent after learning that Washington may deliver drones to Islamabad much sooner than Indian intelligence had foreseen.
Together with the drones, India also ordered from Israel advanced ground control systems and data terminals for their operation.
The visiting Indian delegation also discussed the possible introduction of Israeli Harop `killer' UAVs to the Indian Air Force from 2011. These drones can loiter six hours over targets on ground, sea or dense urban areas and strike them from different angles. The visitors checked on the progress of the DRDO unmanned gunship helicopter, a joint Indian-Israeli project on commission for both their air forces, which is under construction at an Israeli aerospace industry plant. India is going half-and-half with Israel in the costs of developing and production of the innovative helicopter.