India plans to acquire armed drones

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Rustom-IIndia is concerned that Pakistan is using armed drones and now wants to have them

Work on weaponizing the Rustom-I medium altitude long endurance UAV is being hastened and first weapon trials will take place this year. The Rustom-I, developed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) will initially be armed with the HELINA anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) and subsequently with smaller munitions specifically developed for UAV carriage.

According to IBN Live , armed UAV development in India has been carried out at a rather slow pace till date owing at least partly to American concerns about the same. These concerns were likely taken into account because key domestic UAV development programmes till recently had been somewhat dependent on American sources for key components such as actuators. However the recent United States (US) State Department’s withdrawal of export licenses on MTCR grounds for some seven types of MOOG actuators that feature in ADE’s flagship Rustom-II MALE UAV means that India need no longer be so concerned about what America thinks. As of now, indigenously developed replacement actuators have completed electro-magnetic interference/compatibility tests etc and high speed taxi-trials (HSTT) of the Rustom-II have re-commenced. These taxi-trials will go up to a speed of 55 knots, just 10 knots shy of take-off speed. First flight will happen in June 2015 after a delay of more than a year on account of MOOG’s non-supply. Currently, a move to indigenize all critical components for domestically developed UAVs is also underway.

Now though Rustom-II is essentially a C4ISR platform, it too could potentially feature weapons in the future. But for that, the Rustom-I has to become a pathfinder for armed UAV development in India. At the moment, only some weapon carrying taxi-trials have been done with the Rustom-I. The image enclosed below (Pic) depicts the same.

Rustom-I taxiing with two HELINAs underwing. Courtesy DRDO