SOURCE: Satyajeet Kumar/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Lot has been written and said in Indian media on how the delivery of Armed Heron TP Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Israel will bring in a considerable jump in a long overdue capability for Indian air force which has been Long overdue.
Armed drones have been hogging limelight from Syria to Afghanistan and have been used in many operations where key leaders of Al Qaeda and Taliban have been killed. For many Armed drones is like deploying special forces units behind the enemy lines with much lesser risks and without the need to of intervention from manned fighter jets but in Indian context armed drones especially like Heron TP are of limited utility.
Armed drones operate in low Aerial threat level Zones which means even if they are detected enemy doesn’t have the intention or the resources to take down HALE Class Armed drones like Heron TP or Predators. In the Indian context, any armed drones flying inside Pakistani or Chinese airspace will be shot down once detected by ground radars.
Lack of Stealth on Heron TP is another factor which makes them more vulnerable to operate in cross-border raids because heavily guarded airspace will detect them even before it crosses Indian airspace. turboprop engine power drones like Heron TP are slow and are sustainable to strong winds which make them vulnerable to while in flight.
Indian military and government knows very well all the shortfalls of turboprop Armed drones and have been eyeing unmanned stealthy turbofan powered combat drones like American Avenger or Predator C drones which are capable of staying in the air for up to 20 hours, and operating at up to 60,000 feet which are ideal performance required when operating at highly defended Aerial Space .
Flying at over 400 knots, Avenger is 2-3 percent faster than the turboprop-powered unmanned drones and are also much harder to spot due to use of specialised radar-absorbent materials, Stealthy design and Internal weapons bay which are all designed to reduce its radar signature.
Purchase of just 10 Heron TP suggests that conventional turboprop-driven armed drones are of limited utility to India and its Stealthy turbofan-driven American Avenger and India’s own Ghatak UCAV Projects which will be actual game changer in regards to Indian Military.