Note from the Editor-in-Chief
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have found wide usage by most modern armies. They provide a means of meeting various battlefield functions at a low cost.
Depending on the payload on board the UAV, corresponding functions like Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Communications Intelligence, Electronic Intelligence, acquisition of targets and direction of artillery fire, damage assessment are some of the major employment areas. UAVs have also found extensive non-military usage. They are being used for traffic management, border surveillance, wind direction and forest fires and a host of such activities.
The Predator series of UAVs is used primarily by the United States Air force and the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition to various payloads the Predator can carry two Hellfire missiles. The UAV has been extensively used Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia and a few other countries.
Brig SK Chatterji
Nitin A Gokhale (NG): When US Deputy Secretary for Defense Frank Kendall was in New Delhi in the middle of September 2015, there were suggestions that India is interested in the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) of General Atomics (GA). Have you heard anything on India’s interest in this UAV?
Vivek Lall (VL): Yes, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) is aware of India’s interest in Predator-series Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
NG: What could come as a stumbling block in India obtaining the Predator and what’s this process of sale to India contingent upon?
VL: Due to U.S. export laws, the U.S. government has to approve the export of a Predator-series RPA to the Indian government. GA-ASI remains very encouraged by the recent India-U.S. bilateral engagements at the highest levels and we are hopeful that we can play an important supporting role in these discussions.
NG: What are the roles that Predator can perform in the Indian context? Have you worked out scenarios under which they can be deployed along India’s borders?
VL: Predator-series RPA could provide world-class Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for India which would include both high-definition radar and Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) coverage along India’s borders. Additionally, the RPA can perform humanitarian aid/disaster relief surveillance over both land and sea.
NG: What capabilities of Predator can become add-ons to the Searcher-II, Heron and Herop that Indian armed forces already have in their inventory?
VL: Predator-series RPA provide a highly reliable, cost-effective ISR capability that is fully interoperable with U.S. forces and U.S. military platforms in the Indian military’s aircraft inventory. The aircraft can perform wide-area surveillance along India’s extensive terrestrial and marine borders. Extremely safe and reliable, Predator-series RPA have been updated with state-of-the-art technologies, including an automatic takeoff and landing capability, redundant flight control surfaces, enhanced avionics, and triple-redundant flight control computers. GA-ASI also is committed to developing a Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability for its RPA. We are currently developing a DAA system, enabling it to successfully detect and avoid cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft. It has most recently accomplished this task during a series of flight tests conducted in conjunction with the FAA and NASA.
Predator-series RPA may be integrated with multiple ISR sensors, including state-of-the-art EO/IR cameras and GA-ASI’s Lynx® Multi-mode Radar which features a state-of-the-art Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode that offers all-weather, day/night performance for a wide-area search capability. Its Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode provides a quick and easy method for locating moving vehicles. The radar’s Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) mode provides the capability to complete a variety of maritime missions successfully, including coastal surveillance, long-range surveillance, small target detection, and search and rescue operations. Predator-series RPA also are equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for identifying vessels at sea. Other sensors may be integrated at the customer’s request.
Additionally, Predator-series RPA are equipped with both Line-of-Sight (LOS) and Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) data link systems for over-the-horizon operations. The ability to be flown from remote locations precludes the need for a large logistics footprint at forward operating bases.
NG: Would you be ready for a technology transfer, co-production in India in case that’s what New Delhi is looking for? Is there a possibility that Predator could be part of the second tranche of the DTTI projects that the U.S. works on with India?
VL: GA-ASI is very interested in opportunities to work with new international industrial partners. We focus on identifying those opportunities that leverage the strengths and growth capabilities of new partners to enhance the already impressive capabilities delivered by Predator-series RPA.