An announcement that India will receive its first armed Heron drones from Israel has come as Narendra Modi prepares to make history as the first Indian prime minister to ever visit the country.
New Delhi began the procurement process for its first TP-armed Heron drones from Israel two years ago, purchasing 10 of the vehicles for $400 million after approval from the Defense Ministry.
The Heron can detect and track targets before destroying them. As Israel is one of India’s main weapons suppliers, Modi will likely seek to further strengthen ties between the two countries during his July visit.
Indian Economics Secretary Amar Sinha said in late February that the two nations should have a “multi-dimensional relationship” rather than one that is only “unifocal.”
He elaborated, “We are trying to establish a programme under our Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) project. We already have a programme where Indian professors go and teach in Israel. So, we are exploring new areas,” Indian Express reported.
According to India’s Economic Times, the drones are all set for delivery, but the final payment is still pending.
The most advanced UAV from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Heron can handle a payload of 1,000 kg, has a takeoff weight of 5,300 kg and features an endurance of 40 hours.
IAI describes the Heron as a “multi-payload strategic air superiority aircraft.” It has been used by the Israeli Air Force since 2010.
Armed UAVs can help minimize risk while destroying individual targets or large terrorist camps. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is working on an indigenous drone program of its own, called Rustom 2.
Tel Aviv displayed the Heron vehicle at the AeroIndia exhibition in Bengaluru in February. The armed aircraft can perform support and combat operations with a payload of air-to-ground-missiles, along with conducting reconnaissance, similar to the predator drone.
The Indian Air Force’s fleet of 68 unarmed Harpy Drones and 108 searchers also came from Israel, but these are generally used to neutralize enemy radar positions and are designed to self destruct.
Discussing the relationship with India in January, IAI president and CEO Joseph Weiss said in a media release, “This important market is characterized by long-term collaboration, joint development and production, technology transfer and technical support over many years.”