General Atomics, one of the world’s largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer, has in its first media ‘open house’ revealed that the company is closing in on a huge order for its Avenger Drone systems from an international customer. GA’s President David R Alexander who briefed the media about GA’s future, fell short of naming the ‘customer’ but however revealed that the order was for at least 90 drones.
Given India’s decades of hunt for reliable unmanned systems, it has emerged as the lead suspected customer for these state-of-the-armed drone systems. The country’s inclusion to the coveted Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) club last year has given its hunt more life, as manufacturers are now willingly offering the country these advanced delivery systems.
For India, the need for armed drones is acute as the country grapples to control two hostile neighbours and the country’s forces fight a pseudo enemy – terrorists – along its northern theatre. Armed with guided missiles and flying thousands of feet above, these armed drones, which are capable of inflicting punitive strike against designated targets with pin-point accuracy, have revolutionised warfare. World over, they serve as the eyes and ears on battlefield providing unmatched intelligence and live operational picture, enabling military commanders to have live time situational awareness.
One country India has been keen to partner in its hunt for UAVs is USA, which is a pioneer of unmanned delivery systems. American forces, since the inception of the drone technology have successfully stretched the prowess of these systems, elevating them from surveillance to strike roles. As India and US enter into a new era of bilateral partnership, India is ever closer to realising its dreams of operating armed unmanned systems.
Since the elevation of India as a major defence partner in June, 2016, USA has reiterated that India will indeed be having access to Category One UAV technology. This has been reaffirmed by the Pentagon’s recent offer to India for acquiring 22 Sea Guardian maritime surveillance drones.
As far as the Avenger drones are concerned, India is believed to have been in negotiation with US for these systems since 2015. The country’s air force according to sources had made formal enquires with the manufacturer in 2016 regarding the capabilities of the platform.
Avengers, which have been under development since the late 2000s for the US military, unlike their predecessors, are powered by efficient turbofan engines, which enable them to be on stations for a much longer time. By design, the Avenges are capable of conducting covert strikes as stealth is an integral part of the aerial platform. The internal payload bay only enhances the stealth and thus the strike capabilities of the drone system.
The addition of these systems to the ranks of the India Air Force will give India a quantum jump in answering to the increasing hostilities in the region.