The Indian government has approved purchase of 10 missile-armed Heron TP drones from Israel for $400 million.
The government made the decision last week to enhance cross-border military strike capability, The Economic Times daily reported Friday.
“The project has been lying since 2012 as the previous government did not get political backing. The current government has accelerated the project and the armed drones may join the service within a year,” The news daily quoted senior defense ministry officials as saying.
The armed drones are capable of reconnaissance, combat and support roles. India already operates a fleet of unarmed Heron and Searcher UAVs for surveillance and intelligence gathering.
"It is very good if something like this is happening. Instead of sending a pilot in a high-risk area, it is best to use an armed drone. The system can also be used for a surprise, sneak attack," Former Air Chief PV Naik was quoted as saying by the news daily.
The Indian Air Force has a fleet of reconnaissance drones. IAF also has a fleet of Harpy UAVs from Israel, which are self-destructing systems primarily tasked with taking out enemy radar positions.
Heron drones can carry a payload of over 1,000 kg and will be equipped with air-to-ground missiles that detect, track and take down targets deep in enemy territory.