India’s Directorate of Naval Air Staff has issued Request for Information (RFI) last month seeking 50 ‘Naval Ship-Borne Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (NSUAS) that can augment various patrolling and search-related tactics on its vessels.
Indian Navy currently operates two squadrons of Israeli-origin Heron and Searcher Mk-II UAVs at the Indian Naval Air Station (INAS) 342 at Kochi and INAS 343 at Porbandar in Gujarat and Kerala.
The RFI issued will be used for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and monitoring of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), Exclusive Economic Zone safety, anti-piracy and anti-terrorism functions along with Search and Rescue (S&R) roles, naval officials were quoted as saying by Asian Age daily.
“However, the smaller UAVs launched from ships increases the vessels’ surveillance range. They also enhance the ship’s communication with other friendly vessels by relaying signals, especially from the Rukmani, the dedicated naval communications satellite. It is part of a larger intertwining communications network in a naval maneuver coordinating with other aircraft, ships and satellites,” the officials said.
An important function is also to track the trajectories of friendly missiles towards their targets,” explained an IN source. One such NSUAS was also tested here when the Austrian make Schiebel S-100 Camcopter being launched from an Indian Coast Guard ship a few years ago.
While the RFI does not specify the type of ‘recovery’ provision — whether ‘assisted’ or ‘auto’ for the UAV — it does stipulate that the craft should also be capable of operating from ashore, although it is primarily intended to be controlled from ships. According to defense industry sources, Boeing firm is one of the interested companies, looking forward to pitch their ScanEagle NSUAS.
Various technical queries in the RFI the interested bidders are expected to answer also includes questions on whether the system’s control can be handed over from one ship to the other and whether the control station can be miniaturized into a ‘stand alone laptop control’, indicating the IN’s needs for a versatile platform.