India begins joint development of UAVs with the US Air Force

WASHINGTON, (BM) – The US Air Force Research Laboratories have signed an agreement with an Indian startup to jointly research and develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Deputy Defense Secretary Ellen M. Lord said July 21, according to Indian television channel NDTV, learned

Read more: India intends to acquire American MQ-9 Reaper attack drones

She made this statement at the Ideas for India Summit hosted by the US-India Business Council.

“I would like to emphasize a very interesting project that we are currently negotiating – the joint development of a UAV launched from the air with the research laboratories of the US Air Force, Indian Air Force, Defense Research and Development Organization of India and an Indian startup company,” Lord said.

Also, as we reported on July 5, the Indian armed forces intend to acquire the American-made Predator-B (MQ-9 Reaper) reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

India informed the American side of its interest. The publication notes the relevance of the purchase against the background of the confrontation with China, which is armed with the Wing Loong II strike drone.

The United States has offered India to acquire for $ 4 billion 30 Sea Guardian UAVs, which are unarmed counterparts of the Predator-B intended for the Navy. However, Indian military experts believe: if you buy such an expensive weapon, then in a full-fledged strike version.

According to the publication, the United States may be afraid to supply Predator-B drones, due to a possible leak of technology to Russia, another key supplier of weapons to India.

Read more: India is Planning to Buy Drones in Order to Secure the International Borders

Indian-made MALE Rustom drones are under development and will not carry strike weapons. However, a number of tests were unsuccessful. The Defense Research and Development Organization of India (DRDO) plans to release a prototype MALE Rustom drone by the end of 2020.

India wanted to buy drones in 2019, but New Delhi makes difficult decisions and often does not reach the end

Exactly one year ago, in mid-July, the Indian army was interested in acquiring drones to increase the capacity of its capabilities.

According to the information then, the purchased drones will help its huge force of 1.2 million soldiers in maintaining a strong surveillance system at the borders shared with Pakistan and China.

The monitoring drones will help the security forces to carry out a 24/24h and 7/7day surveillance of the border, which will further result in checking all sorts of cross border crimes and threats. The use of the drones will result in making the Indian Army more efficient as they will be able to catch any threat or infiltration right on the spot.

The information on the purchase and use of the drones has been stated by Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat in New Delhi on Saturday, 13 July. However, the Army chief has not provided further details about the drones and its uses.

The Indian Army had initiated a tender in late 2017 for the purchase of 600 unmanned aerial vehicles. A plan to buy US-made armed drones is also being considered by the government. But would it be then scrapped like so many other acquisition programs, the last one being the sniper rifles?

Read more: India bought single-engine Tejas fighter jets totalling $5,5B

More about MQ-9 Reaper [Predator-B]

UAV Predator B was created on the basis of the successful multi-purpose UAV RQ / MQ-1 Predator from General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI). The work needed by Predator B was launched privately in 1998, but was partially funded by NASA. The first flight of the prototype took place in February 2001.

3 prototypes of the YMQ-9A were released:

  • Predator B-001 – the first modernization of the MQ-1 Predator UAV. A turboprop engine (712 kW) is installed on it. The visual difference from the MQ-1 is the wings, they are increased from 14.8 m to 20 m. B-001 can carry 340 kg. payload at an altitude of 15.2 km., at a speed of 390 km / h. Flight time up to 30 hours.
  • Predator B-002 – the next upgrade of the UAV. Carrying capacity 215 kg., Top ceiling height 18.3 km., Flight time 12 hours.
  • Predator B-003 or Altair – the wingspan is again increased to 25.6 m. Therefore, the increased UAV carrying capacity is up to 1360 kilograms, and the maximum flight height is 15.8 km. Flight time increased to 36 hours!

UAV Predator B is an enlarged version of the RQ / MQ-1 Predator. The main difference is the “more traditional” V-tail, which has a positive V-shape. GA-ASI tested the Predator B prototypes with two different engines. The first one is the Honeywell TPE-331-10T engine, and the second is the Williams FJ44-2A turbofan engine. Predator Equipment.

B is basically identical to the RQ / MQ-1 equipment, and consists of the Raytheon AN / ASS-52 (V) wide-range infrared optical-electronic aiming system and the General Atomics synthesized aperture AN / APY-8 Lynx.

Read more: India plans to invest heavily in five wide-range Russian combat jets

The Predator B can also be used as a multipurpose combat complex, armed with ATGM AGM-114C / K Hellfire and other guided weapons. UAV control equipment is compatible with the MQ-1B ground equipment.

After successful experiments with the armed RQ-1, the idea arose to develop the use of weapons from the Predator B. In February 2003, the Predator B UAV, in the version with a theater, was designated MQ-9A Reaper.

And at the end of the year, the US Air Force purchased two prototype UAVs YMQ-9A. Military tests of these machines were conducted. YMQ-9A demonstrated high, very superior performance of its “parent”. UAVs were shown to be in the air for up to 24 hours at an altitude of 13,700 m, and according to GA-ASI, the maximum flight duration is 30 hours.

The latest unmanned aircraft MQ-9 Reaper according to the classification of the US Air Force belongs to the category of “killer hunters” – aircraft capable of tracking the target and destroying it.

The MQ-9 Reaper is capable of carrying up to 14 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, while the now widely used Predator unmanned aircraft is armed with only two such missiles. If necessary, instead of missiles, the MQ-9 Reaper can carry 4 AGM-114 Hellfire and two laser-guided bombs – GBU-12 Paveway II of 250 kilograms each.

A fully loaded MQ-9 Reaper can be continuously in the air for 14 hours and has a maximum speed of 480 kilometers per hour, while the maximum speed of the Predator aircraft does not exceed 215 kilometers per hour.

On May 18, 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a certificate of compliance, which allows the MQ-1 and MQ-9 to fly in US airspace designed for civilian traffic.

For the US Navy, an unmanned vehicle based on the Reaper, called the “Mariner,” is being created. This device will have folding wings, an increased fuel supply, which will allow the drone to be in flight for 49 hours.

Read more: France will deliver Rafale fighter jets to India without delay

In August 2008, the U.S. Air Force completed the re-equipment with unmanned aerial vehicles MQ-9 Reaper of the first combat air unit – the 174th fighter wing of the National Guard.

Rearmament took place over three years. Impact UAVs have shown high efficiency in Afghanistan and Iraq. The main advantages over the replaced F-16s are: lower purchase and operation costs, longer flight duration, operator safety and the possibility of their shift work during long flights.


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