New crisis? Israeli-made drone, operated by India, crashes in China

China’s Defense Ministry said the drone crash violated China’s sovereignty and that Beijing would "resolutely defend" China.

December 11, 2017 15:45
2 minute read.
New crisis? Israeli-made drone, operated by India, crashes in China

An Israeli drone is seen flying over Gaza as seen from the northern Gaza Strip border, April 9, 2011.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Just weeks after India canceled a massive missile deal with Israel, an Israeli-made drone may be in the middle of an international spat, this time between India and China, after a Heron drone operated by the Indian military crashed in China.

China’s Defense Ministry said that the drone, which crashed last week in China’s Chumbi Valley after crossing a line of control between the two countries, violated China’s sovereignty and that Beijing would “resolutely defend” China.

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“This action by India violated China’s territorial sovereignty. We express strong dissatisfaction and opposition,” Reuters quoted Zhang Shuili, a military official in China’s western battle zone command, as saying in a ministry statement – adding that “China’s border defense forces took a professional and responsible attitude in conducting an inspection of the device.”

News of the crash comes just weeks after India reportedly canceled a half-a-billion-dollar missile deal with Israel. The missile contract with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems would have allowed India to purchase Spike antitank guided missiles. Instead, the Indian government has asked its country’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to nix the deal and develop its own “home-grown” antitank missile, in an attempt to build up its own defense industry.

India’s Economic Times reported that the Heron drone, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, had taken off from a base in the Siliguri Corridor on a training mission over India when it developed technical problems and crashed in Chumbi Valley near the Doklam Plateau where there is a concentration of Chinese troops.

The Doklam Plateau is located on the border between China and Bhutan near India’s Sikkim region and is claimed by both Beijing and Bhutan, with India backing Bhutan’s claim to the territory. This led to clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in June when soldiers threw stones at each other.

“The drone’s communication link broke with the ground control station, it was regained and then lost again, preventing it from being controlled, before crashing in the Chumbi Valley,” the Economic Times quoted a top government official as saying.

“The drone’s DAS, based at the control station, has been sent to IAI to check what went wrong. The analysis will be out in a few weeks,” the official added.

The Heron is the IAI’s most advanced drone with a 40-hour endurance, maximum take-off weight of 5,300 kg. and a payload of 1,000 kg. They can be used for both reconnaissance as well as combat and support roles and can carry air-toground missiles to take out hostile targets.

The Indian Air Force already operates close to 180 Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles, including 108 IAI-made Searchers and 68 unarmed Herons for surveillance and intelligence gathering as well as a fleet of IAI-produced Harpy UA Vs, which carry high-explosive warheads and self-destruct to take out targets like radar stations.

Israel is considered a leading exporter of UA Vs, with companies like IAI and Elbit, selling them to countries across the world, including Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico and, reportedly, Singapore as well.

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