By ANNA AHRONHEIMUpdated: JANUARY 28, 2019 21:45
India’s Air Force is planning to acquire 15 Harop attack drones from Israel in a bid to enhance its unmanned warfare capabilities, local media has reported.“A proposal to acquire these attack drones is expected to be discussed by the Defense Ministry at a high-level meeting in the coming week to strengthen the fleet of such drones in the Air Force,” India’s ANI news network quoted defense sources as saying.India already has a number of the Harop drones developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), having purchased 10 of them in September 2009 in a deal worth some $100 million.The Harop is a small drone which, according to the company’s website, is a combination of the “capabilities of a UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and a lethal missile.”Small enough to bypass enemy aircraft detection systems, the Harop – which has 23 kg. of onboard explosives – searches, identifies and loiters above targets before attacking and destroying them. If a target is not engaged, the drone will return and land itself back at its base.Measuring two meters in length with a wingspan of three meters, it consists of the munition units, transportable launchers and a mission-control shelter where the operator can approve or abort attacks.It can be launched from various platforms at sea or on land and can be launched at any angle, either vertically or horizontally. The launcher also has a fueling system to allow for the drone to be ready at all times.According to India’s ANI news, Jerusalem and New Delhi are also discussing “Project Cheetah” under which all drones in India’s armed forces will have their surveillance capabilities enhanced and be upgraded to high-level attack drones.The Indian Air Force already operates close to 180 Israeli-made UAVs, including 108 IAI-made Searchers and 68 unarmed Heron 1s for surveillance and intelligence gathering, as well as a fleet of IAI-produced Harpy UAVs, which carry a high-explosive warhead and self-destructs to take out targets such as radar stations.Last April, India’s Economic Times reported that 10 Heron TP-armed drones bought by New Delhi in September 2015 at a cost of $400 million were ready to be delivered.The Heron TPs are IAI’s most advanced UAVs with a 40-hour endurance, maximum take-off weight of 5,300 kg. and a payload of 1,000 kg. According to local press, they can be used for both reconnaissance as well as combat and support roles, and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets.While IAI’s export Heron TP variant is almost identical to the company’s domestic version, the export version carries a 450 kg. payload in order to allow members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to procure the UAV. While Israel is not a member of MTCR, which aims to restrict the proliferation of missile technology, India joined in June of last year.Israel has agreed to only export strategic weapons systems to member countries.According to foreign media reports, Israel is considered a leading exporter of drones, with IAI and Elbit selling UAVs to Australia, Azerbaijan, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea.IAI has over 30 clients from around the globe.