Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles in In­dian Army

In­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble UAVs, both in the com­bat and re­con­nais­sance roles, are carv­ing their own niche

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

In­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble UAVs, both in the com­bat and re­con­nais­sance roles, are carv­ing their own niche.

THE SYN­ERGY DE­RIVED FROM the com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy with op­er­a­tional art is tak­ing war­fare to new realms which were never an­tic­i­pated. While there are many chal­lenges, but there are also un­bounded op­por­tu­ni­ties. Some are evo­lu­tion­ary—and some are truly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. For ex­am­ple in the aero­space realm even as fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft like the F/A-22, the F-35, and the Sukhoi PAK-FA, be­come op­er­a­tional, in­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) are carv­ing out their own niche. This brief re­view ex­am­ines UAV func­tions, their ex­pand­ing mis­sions and the capabilities of some of the cur­rent UAVs in use in var­i­ous mil­i­taries.

Func­tions

UAVs per­form a wide va­ri­ety of func­tions. The ma­jor­ity of th­ese func­tions per­tain to re­con­nais­sance and are some form of re­mote sens­ing.

Re­mote Sens­ing

Re­mote sens­ing func­tions in­clude elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum sen­sors, bi­o­log­i­cal sen­sors, and chemical sen­sors. Elec­tro­mag­netic sen­sors typ­i­cally in­clude vis­ual spec­trum, in­frared, or near in­frared cam­eras as well as radar sys­tems. Other elec­tro­mag­netic wave de­tec­tors such as mi­crowave and ul­tra­vi­o­let spec­trum sen­sors may also be used, but are un­com­mon. Bi­o­log­i­cal sen­sors are sen­sors ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing the air­borne pres­ence of var­i­ous micro­organ­isms and other bi­o­log­i­cal fac­tors. Chemical sen­sors use laser spec­troscopy to an­a­lyze the con­cen­tra­tions of each el­e­ment in the air.

Counter – IEDs

Ver­ti­cal Take Off and Land­ing (VTOL), UAVs op­er­ated in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown their use­ful­ness in counter im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice (C-IEDs) tasks. Ver­ti­cal take off and land­ing UAVs are es­pe­cially ver­sa­tile in lo­cat­ing IEDs with the air ve­hi­cle ca­pa­ble of hov­er­ing at a dis­tance to find and lo­cate IEDs.

ISTAR and SEAD

UAVs ad­di­tion­ally of­fer an al­ter­na­tive to manned strike air­craft pro­vid­ing both in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and re­con­nais­sance (ISTAR) ca­pa­bil­ity as well as sup­pres­sion of en­emy air de­fences (SEAD) and deep pen­e­tra­tion ca­pa­bil­ity where there is high threat from en­emy air de­fences.

Land Bor­der Sur­veil­lance

In the domain of land bor­der sur­veil­lance, there is a wide spec­trum of pos­si­ble tech­ni­cal means that can be em­ployed to pro­vide ef­fec­tive sur­veil­lance in­clud­ing: day­light and in­frared cam­eras, ground radars, fixed ground sen­sors, mo­bile sys­tems, manned air­craft and satel­lites. How­ever, Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles (UAVs) could also play an im­por­tant role in fur­ther en­hanc­ing bor­der sur­veil­lance in the fu­ture, though they face a num­ber of tech­ni­cal and other chal­lenges.

Ex­plo­ration Mis­sions

UAVs can be used to per­form geo­phys­i­cal sur­veys, in par­tic­u­lar ge­o­mag­netic sur­veys where the pro­cessed mea­sure­ments of the dif­fer­en­tial Earth’s mag­netic field strength are used to cal­cu­late the na­ture of the un­der­ly­ing mag­netic rock struc­ture. A knowl­edge of the un­der­ly­ing rock struc­ture helps trained geo­physi­cists to pre­dict the lo­ca­tion of min­eral de­posits. The pro­duc­tion side of oil and gas ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion en­tails the mon­i­tor­ing of the in­tegrity of oil and gas pipe­lines and re­lated in­stal­la­tions. Mon­i­tor­ing ac­tiv­ity could be per­formed us­ing dig­i­tal cam­eras mounted on one, or more, UAVs.

Trans­port

UAVs can trans­port goods us­ing var­i­ous means based on the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the UAV it­self. Most pay­loads are stored in an in­ter­nal pay­load bay some­where in the air­frame. For many he­li­copter con­fig­u­ra­tions, ex­ter­nal pay­loads can be teth­ered to the bot­tom of the air­frame. With fixed wing UAVs, pay­loads can also be at­tached to the air­frame, but aero­dy­nam­ics of the air­craft with the pay­load must be as­sessed.

Sci­en­tific Re­search

Un­manned air­craft are also used for sci­en­tific re­search in ar­eas which may be too dan­ger­ous for pi­loted craft. Ex­am­ples are of use dur­ing Hur­ri­canes or in ex­treme cold and se­vere cli­mates.

Armed At­tacks

UAVs armed with mis­siles are now used as plat­forms for hit­ting ground tar­gets in sen­si­tive ar­eas. Armed UAVs are being used by the US mil­i­tary for hit­ting mil­i­tants and ter­ror­ist lead­ers. The ad­van­tage of us­ing an un­manned ve­hi­cle, rather than a manned air­craft in such cases, is to avoid a diplo­matic em­bar­rass­ment should the air­craft be shot down and the pi­lots cap­tured. Use of MQ-1 Preda­tor UAVs armed with Hell­fire mis­siles in Afghanistan and in tribal ar­eas of Pak­istan and in Ye­men by the US, are now well known. Sim­i­larly Is­rael is us­ing UAVs armed with mis­siles in Pales­tine. Many cases of tar­get­ing civil­ians have also been re­ported by the me­dia prov­ing that tar­get­ing with­out proper ver­i­fi­ca­tion can lead to col­lat­eral dam­age.

Search and Res­cue

UAVs play a very sig­nif­i­cant role in search and res­cue and this is likely to in­crease in the fu­ture. This was demon­strated by the suc­cess­ful use of UAVs dur­ing the 2008 hur­ri­canes that struck Louisiana and Texas. It is be­lieved that Preda­tors, op­er­at­ing be­tween 18,000–29,000 feet above sea level, have per­formed search and res­cue and dam­age as­sess­ment. The Preda­tor’s syn­thetic aper­ture radar (SAR) is a so­phis­ti­cated all­weather sen­sor ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing pho­to­graphic-like images through clouds, rain or fog, and in day­time or night­time con­di­tions; all in real-time.

De­sign and Devel­op­ment

UAV de­sign and pro­duc­tion is a global ac­tiv­ity, with man­u­fac­tur­ers all across the world. The United States and Is­rael were ini­tial pi­o­neers in this tech­nol­ogy, and US man­u­fac­tur­ers had a mar­ket share of over 60 per cent in 2006. The share is due to in­crease by 5-10 per cent through 2016. Northrop Grum­man and Gen­eral Atomics are the dom­i­nant man­u­fac­tur­ers in this in­dus­try, on the strength of the Global Hawk and Preda­tor/Mariner sys­tems. Is­raeli and European man­u­fac­tur­ers form a sec­ond tier due to lower indige­nous in­vest­ments, and the gov­ern­ments of those na­tions have ini­tia­tives to ac­quire US sys­tems due to higher lev­els of ca­pa­bil­ity. European mar­ket share rep­re­sented just 4 per cent of global rev­enue in 2006.

UAS’ roles have ex­panded to ar­eas in­clud­ing elec­tronic at­tack, drone strikes, sup­pres­sion or de­struc­tion of en­emy air de­fense, net­work node or com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay, com­bat search and res­cue, and deriva­tions of th­ese themes

Minia­ture and Mi­cro UAVs

Smaller, tac­ti­cal UAVs are being de­vel­oped to sup­port tac­ti­cal units with very short range “over the hill” and “around the cor­ner” in­tel­li­gence, and as­sist in force pro­tec­tion. While each mis­sion re­quires a dif­fer­ent profile and capabilities, the man por­ta­ble Minia­ture Aerial Ve­hi­cles (MAVs) are de­signed to pro­vide rea­son­ably good per­for­mance at an af­ford­able price. To ef­fec­tively sup­port the field troops, smaller UAVs are de­signed, rang­ing from man por­ta­ble (back pack­able) sys­tems to in­sect-sized “mesi­copters”, and minia­ture “smart dust” sen­sors. They could

be launched by hand, de­ployed by larger UAVs, or ejected from ar­tillery or mor­tar pro­jec­tiles, as ex­pend­able sen­sors. Th­ese sys­tems are broadly des­ig­nated as MAV. Cur­rent sys­tems are rel­a­tively large for a “mi­cro” des­ig­na­tion. How­ever, new elec­tro-opto-me­chan­i­cal in­te­grated mi­cro sys­tems cur­rently in re­search and devel­op­ment stage will en­able th­ese sys­tems to be much smaller, and op­er­ate au­tonomously in con­cert, to mon­i­tor and sense the bat­tle­field, and to en­gage and de­feat a wide va­ri­ety of hos­tile tar­gets across the en­tire spec­trum of con­flict. US has con­ducted tests with many types of MAVs [less than 15 cms] how­ever th­ese types of UAVs do not seem to have been de­ployed op­er­a­tionally at present.

En­durance UAVs

As far as un­manned air­craft sys­tems have come in the past decade, the emerg­ing race to sat­isfy the US mil­i­tary’s de­mand for un­blink­ing sen­sor and com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay cov­er­age over vast ar­eas will push de­signs and tech­nol­ogy for un­manned air­craft even fur­ther. Lead­ing the quest are two ri­val de­signs so ad­vanced that they have been in devel­op­ment and con­sumed hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ment over nearly a decade to reach this point. Both the AeroViron­ment Global Ob­server (GO) and the Boe­ing Phan­tom Eye programmes were fi­nally closed down. The Pen­tagon closed the devel­op­ment con­tract for the Global Ob­server, the rea­son being the crash in April 2011. The Global Ob­server was used as a tech­nol­ogy de­mon­stra­tion, not a pro­gram for a func­tion­ing air­craft. In April 2013, the Pen­tagon stated that no ser­vice or de­fense agency had ad­vo­cated for it to be a pro­gram. AeroViron­ment is cur­rently in pos­ses­sion of the sec­ond pro­to­type Global Ob­server.

As far Phan­tom Eye is con­cerned although the pri­mary role was air­borne sur­veil­lance, Boe­ing pitched it as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay for the U.S. Navy. Boe­ing said that iIt would have a role in the Navy with­out tak­ing up space on an air­craft car­rier with long-range re­con­nais­sance still pro­vided by the MQ-4C Tri­ton. A pair of Phan­tom Eyes, one re­liev­ing the other af­ter days of con­stant flight, could pro­vide the Navy with con­tin­u­ous long range com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The lat­est en­durance record for an un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle flight now of­fi­cially be­longs to Ze­phyr, the so­lar pow­ered UAV built by Qine­tiq, ac­cord­ing to the Fédéra­tion Aéro­nau­tique In­ter­na­tionale (FAI). The Ze­phyr UAV achieved three world records in July 2010. The UAV was launched for flight trials on 9 July 2010 and stayed aloft for 14 nights (336 hours 22 min­utes) at an alti­tude of 70,740ft (21,561m) above the US Army’s Yuma Prov­ing Ground in Ari­zona. It was brought back to the earth on the morn­ing of 23 July 2010.

Em­ploy­ment in the Fu­ture

The mil­i­tary role of un­manned air­craft sys­tems is grow­ing at un­prece­dented rates. In 2005, tac­ti­cal- and the­ater-level un­manned air­craft alone had flown over 1,00,000 flight hours in sup­port of Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom and Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, in which they were or­gan­ised un­der Task Force Lib­erty in Afghanistan and Task Force ODIN in Iraq. Rapid ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy are en­abling more and more ca­pa­bil­ity to be placed on smaller air­frames, which is spurring a large in­crease in the num­ber of small un­manned air­craft sys­tems (SUAS) being de­ployed on the bat­tle­field. As the capabilities grow for all types of UAS, na­tions con­tinue to sub­si­dize their re­search and devel­op­ment, lead­ing to fur­ther ad­vances and en­abling them to per­form a mul­ti­tude of mis­sions. UAS no longer only per­form in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, and re­con­nais­sance mis­sions, although this still re­mains their pre­dom­i­nant type. Their roles have ex­panded to ar­eas in­clud­ing elec­tronic at­tack, drone strikes, sup­pres­sion or de­struc­tion of en­emy air de­fense, net­work node or com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay, com­bat search and res­cue, and deriva­tions of th­ese themes. Th­ese UAS range in cost from a few thou­sand dol­lars to tens of mil­lions of dol­lars, with air­craft weigh­ing from less than half kilo­gram to over 18 tons.

In­dian UAVs

UAVs are low-cost, low-risk, high pay­off in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR) and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion (TA) sys­tems. UAVs can be de­ployed quickly to cover vast ar­eas and, hence, en­hance re­spon­sive­ness. The em­ploy­ment of UAVs im­proves sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, helps to in­crease the op­er­a­tional tempo and re­duces the sen­sorto-shooter time lag. When em­ployed in con­junc­tion with other sen­sors, UAVs as­sist in con­firm­ing or negat­ing the ef­fi­cacy of in­for­ma­tion gath­ered and, thus, qual­i­ta­tively im­prove the in­tel­li­gence avail­able to com­man­ders. Some of the UAVs in use or being de­vel­oped are given be­low.

Nis­hant – Made for In­dian Army, this UAV was de­vel­oped by DRDO’s branch, Aero­nau­ti­cal Devel­op­ment Es­tab­lish­ment. It re­quires a launch­ing sys­tem with cat­a­pult tech­nol­ogy as it doesn’t have self-pro­pel­ling abil­ity and gets down with the help of a para­chute. Four Nis­hant UAVs were given to the Army and all four crashed while being op­er­ated. The In­dian army has can­celled fur­ther or­ders of this UAV and de­cided to re­tire Nis­hant.

Heron – In­dia al­ready had about 12 Heron-1 drones be­fore the 2005 sale, and they played a cru­cial part in search and res­cue op­er­a­tions fol­low­ing the In­dian Ocean tsunami in De­cem­ber 2004. IAI Searcher tac­ti­cal UAVs and their high-end Heron UAV coun­ter­parts were used to lo­cate trapped sur­vivors and miss­ing bod­ies near the An­daman and Ni­co­bar is­lands, re­lay­ing clear live feed pho­to­graphs while in flight, and al­low­ing im­me­di­ate re­sponse as soon as sur­vivors or vic­tims were iden­ti­fied on screen.

The Heron UAV is re­port­edly ca­pa­ble of fly­ing for over 24 hours at a time at al­ti­tudes around 32,000 feet. IAI lists flight time as >40 hours, and says that it has demon­strated 52 hours of con­tin­u­ous flight. It has a max­i­mum range of about 3,000 km and can carry a max­i­mum pay­load weigh­ing 250 kg/550 lbs. As a large MALE (Medium Alti­tude, Long En­durance) UAV, it’s built to carry mul­ti­ple pay­loads at a time for a va­ri­ety of mis­sions.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment had ap­proved the pur­chase of ten armed UAVs from Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries, fol­low­ing a fast­track­ing of the pro­gram by the Modi ad­min­is­tra­tion in Septem­ber 2015. The $400 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion will see ten IAI Heron TP drones join other Is­raeli de­signs op­er­ated by the In­dian Air Force, with Harpy loi­ter­ing mu­ni­tions. It seems that Heron is now being op­er­ated by all three Ser­vices i.e. Army, Navy and the Air Force.

Harpy – The IAI Harpy is a loi­ter­ing mu­ni­tion pro­duced by Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries. The Harpy is de­signed to at­tack radar sys­tems and is op­ti­mised for the SEAD role. It car­ries a high ex­plo­sive war­head. It has a max­i­mum speed of 185 km/hr and 500 km range of flight. The Harpy has been sold to sev­eral for­eign na­tions, in­clud­ing South Korea, Turkey, In­dia, and China.

In­dian army plans to buy high-tech un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) to strengthen its in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR) capabilities and im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of its mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions

Searcher

All three Ser­vices op­er­ate the Searcher se­ries of UAVs. The In­dian Army has re­port­edly de­ployed its first batch of 25 Is­raeli-made Searcher Mark II un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) over its fron­tiers with Pak­istan and China. As per me­dia re­ports, In­dia has pur­chased 100 of the re­con­nais­sance drones at a cost of $750 mil­lion and may dou­ble this or­der. The In­dian Army op­er­ates both Searcher Mk I and II. The Searcher Mark II is pro­duced by Is­rael Air­craft In­dus­tries. It can re­main air­borne for 16 hours and has a max­i­mum range of 150 kilo­me­ters at the rel­a­tively high alti­tude of 18,500 feet, mak­ing it es­pe­cially suit­able for mis­sions over the Hi­malayas.De­vel­oped by Is­rael, this UAV can at­tain a speed of 200km/hour and can fly up to 18 hours at the rel­a­tively high alti­tude of 18,500 feet, mak­ing it es­pe­cially suit­able for mis­sions over the Hi­malayas. In­dian Army,Navy and Air Force are the users in In­dian armed forces. It per­forms the role of re­con­nais­sance in the armed forces.

Rus­tom

It is an un­named com­bat air ve­hi­cle, a pro­duc­tion of DRDO ded­i­cated to all three ser­vices of In­dian armed forces. The project is un­der progress and some top pri­vate players in de­fence field are bid­ding for its man­u­fac­tur­ing deal. This UAV has come with wheels which makes its take-off and land­ing a bit ahead of Nis­hant. Its vari­ant Rus­tom -2 is also un­der progress with more spec­i­fi­ca­tion and dura­bil­ity.

On Fe­bru­ary 25, 2018, In­dia’s pre­mier de­fence re­search in­sti­tute DRDO car­ried out “suc­cess­ful” test flight of its Rus­tom 2 drone, a medium-alti­tude long-en­durance un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle (UAV), at Cha­lakere in Kar­nataka’s Chi­tradurga dis­trict. Rus­tom 2 is being de­vel­oped on the lines of preda­tor drones of the US to carry out sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR) roles for the armed forces with an en­durance of 24 hours, of­fi­cials said.

DRDO suc­cess­fully flew its Rus­tom 2 at its Aero­nau­ti­cal Test Range (ATR) at Cha­lakere at Chi­tradurga. This flight as­sumes sig­nif­i­cance due to the fact that this is the first flight in user con­fig­u­ra­tion with higher power en­gine. The De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( DRDO) said the test flight was “suc­cess­ful” and all its pa­ram­e­ters were “nor­mal”.

Lak­shya-Pilot­less Tar­get air­craft

This pilot­less tar­get air­craft is man­u­fac­tured by HAL and Aero­nau­ti­cal Devel­op­ment Es­tab­lish­ment (ADE) of DRDO for the pri­mary use of Army, Navy and Air­force. The main pur­pose of its devel­op­ment is tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and re­con­nais­sance. It has a rocket as­sisted launch and lands through a para­chute. The glam­our of this UAV at­tracted many coun­tries like Sin­ga­pore, Is­rael, etc.

In­dian Army’s UAV Re­quire­ments

The army plans to buy high-tech un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) to strengthen its in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR) capabilities and im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of its mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

The force is lay­ing the ground­work for ac­quir­ing more than 120 high-alti­tude, long-en­durance (HALE) UAVs, a se­nior of­fi­cer told HT. Such UAVs can fly at over 60,000ft and re­main air­borne for over 30 hours. The army’s ex­ist­ing un­manned sys­tems’ fleet com­prises Heron medium-alti­tude, long-en­durance (MALE) UAVs, and the smaller Searcher Mark II tac­ti­cal drones, both built by Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries. Herons can fly at over 35,000ft and feed air­borne in­tel­li­gence for over 45 hours com­pared to Searchers that op­er­ate at 15,000ft for nearly 20 hours.

“The higher you go, the more you see,” said Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Subrata Saha (Retd), army’s deputy chief till March 2017. “The pre­ci­sion af­forded by HALE UAVs comes with top-end tech­nol­ogy that can be ex­pen­sive.” The army is wait­ing for lo­cal ven­dors to re­spond to a re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for 60 short-range re­motely pi­loted air­craft sys­tems (RPAS) that can op­er­ate for 10 hours at 15,000ft.

Fu­ture Mile­stones Aura/Ghatak

In a ma­jor step for­ward for what is by far In­dia’s most am­bi­tious avi­a­tion ex­er­cise, the first bud­getary funds have be­gun to flow into Project Ghatak. The clas­si­fied ef­fort to build a stealthy un­manned com­bat air ve­hi­cle for­mally re­ceived sanc­tion as a ‘Lead-in Project’ in May 2016. A project that has di­rect over­sight from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor, Ghatak (which be­gan as the DRDO’s Au­ton­o­mous Un­manned Re­search Air­craft – AURA) has re­mained steadily out of view. Un­heard of in, pre­cious lit­tle is known about the project be­yond the very ba­sics.

Ghatak is likely to be pow­ered by a mod­i­fied dry thrust ver­sion of the Kaveri en­gine. It will have a fly­ing wing plan­form with in­ter­nal weapons and will sport stealth char­ac­ter­is­tics de­vel­oped wholly in-house. While the Aero­nau­ti­cal Devel­op­ment Agency (ADA) is over­see­ing the pro­gramme along with the Gas Tur­bine Re­search Es­tab­lish­ment (GTRE), the real R&D is being front­footed by two aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions: IIT Bom­bay and IIT Kan­pur.

UAV Panchi

Punchi is a wheeled ver­sion of Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles Nis­hant which is un­der­go­ing trials. UAV Panchi has some plus points as com­pared to UAV Nis­hant. It doesn’t con­tain para­chutes and land­ing bags which re­duces its weight and in­creases its en­durance and its small size as com­pared to Nis­hant makes it hard to find in the en­emy’s sky.

Preda­tor Guardian Drones from US

The US has cleared the sale of preda­tor Guardian drones to In­dia, as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi pledged on Mon­day to deepen their de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion. “Re­flect­ing the part­ner­ship, the US has of­fered for In­dia’s con­sid­er­a­tion the sale of Sea Guardian Un­manned Aerial Sys­tems,” the joint state­ment said.

In­dia is look­ing to buy 22 preda­tor Guardian drones from the US for $2 bil­lion. In­dia is buy­ing the un­armed Guardian un­manned air­craft sys­tem (UAS) which was de­vel­oped by the US Of­fice of Air and Marine (OAM) in part­ner­ship with the US Coast Guard. The Guardian has been mod­i­fied from a stan­dard Reaper with struc­tural, avionic and com­mu­ni­ca­tion en­hance­ments and an added Raytheon SeaVue Marine Search Radar. Its Elec­tro-op­ti­cal/In­frared Sen­sor is op­ti­mized for mar­itime op­er­a­tions.

The Gen­eral Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (some­times called Preda­tor B) is an un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle (UAV) ca­pa­ble of re­motely con­trolled or au­ton­o­mous flight op­er­a­tions, de­vel­oped by Gen­eral Atomics Aero­nau­ti­cal Sys­tems (GA-ASI) pri­mar­ily for the United States Air Force. The en­gine of the air­craft is in­te­grated with Dig­i­tal Elec­tronic En­gine Con­trol (DEEC). It en­hances the per­for­mance of the en­gine and in­creases its ca­pa­bil­ity to pre­vent waste­ful con­sump­tion of fuel at lower al­ti­tudes. Cur­rently the drone is being used by Aus­tralia, Do­mini­can Repub­lic, France, Italy, the Nether­lands, Spain, United King­dom and the United States. The air­craft can be flown for over 27 hours in the air at a max­i­mum alti­tude of 50,000 feet and a max­i­mum speed of 240 KTAS. With a fault tol­er­ant, triple-re­dun­dant flight con­trol sys­tem, the drone has more than 90 per cent sys­tem op­er­a­tional avail­abil­ity.

(Top) IAI’s Heron UAV; (above) Gen­eral Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: IAI, USAF

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