DRDO in talks with Boeing and Lockheed Martin for UAV

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indigenous Indian UAS

In a first, defense institutions from the US and India are coming together to develop a rotary UAV (unmanned aerial system). US companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin are in talks with Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for a possible collaboration for developing an indigenous rotary engine-powered UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Common platform Rotary UAV is a program of the Indian Navy in which local developers HAL, ADE and the Indian Navy with certification from the local Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), have jointly come up with one platform for further design and development. ADE has already successfully test-flown the Rustom UAV.

Developing a rotary UAV is a challenging task, given the fact that the prospective UAV is designed to land on a moving ship. It has to take into consideration a motion (side-to side movement) of the bow of the ship and pitch (the rotation of a vessel about its side-to-side).

DRDO’s planned AMCA will integrate certain fifth generation capabilities. K. Tamilmani, DS & DG Aeronautical Systems at DRDO told The Hindu that “Fifth generation requires stealth, super cruise and thrust factor. All these three areas are being integrated into the AMCA.” Boeing and Lockheed Martin are to have a presentation before DRDO official very soon.

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Considering the improved ties with US and defense opportunities opening up in Russia, DRDO is exploring government-to-government (G-to-G) support for various aircraft engine upgrades. Talks with private companies and engaging with foreign government is among of the efforts the DRDO is making in its goal to promote collaborations and productions with regards to its various development programs.

Indigenization – increasing India’s share of development and production

Tamilmani said DRDO is making efforts to increase LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Indigenization from the present level of 65 per cent to 80 per cent within three years. DRDO currently has 364 LRUs (line replaceable units) of which 164 LRUs are ‘made in India’ and the rest (109) are imported from foreign vendors. Tamilmani said, “DRDO has identified local vendors, who can produce them locally and save precious foreign exchange for the country. With allocation to the tune of ₹700 crore (equivalent to $70 million), the budget which the LCA program has already been set aside.” The process has already started and by the time LCA Mark II is ready, 80 to 85 per cent indigenization will be achieved. Tamilmani said this year’s Aero India will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.