India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has invited private companies to partner with the government to develop and manufacture its first unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), similar to the US Predator drone.
The UCAV project, called Rustom-2 project was brought under the “Strategy India” category with funding by the government because the private companies had been lukewarm about building prototypes at their own expenses. In the "Strategy India" category, the government funds up to 80 percent in the development of the prototype, while the remaining 20 percent is funded by the selected private development agency, according to Defense News.
The development cost of Rustom-2 is estimated to be about $200 million. DRDO will fund 80 percent of the development and prototype cost for the Rustom-2 UCAV, and the remaining 20 percent will be paid by private Indian defense companies. This is the first time DRDO has invited private companies to develop prototypes under their guidance. In doing so, the Defence Ministry is reversing its decision to build Rustom-2 using only DRDO and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
India's domestic private sector defense companies including L&T, Tata Power SED,Mahindra Defence System, Data Patterns India Pvt. Ltd. and Bharat Forge Ltd are likely to be frontrunners to compete for the Rustom-2 project.
India began its Rustom-1 UAV in 2006 and initially wanted participation by domestic defense companies. However, after the MoD failed to give firm commitments of orders to the selected company, none of the defense companies from the private sector participated. HAL then became the production agency.
Weighting 1,800 kilograms, Rustom-2 will have a payload of 350 kilograms, and a flight endurance of up to 48 hours. The two 100-horsepower engines will be capable of flying up to 36,000 feet with a range of 100 kilometers.