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The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) has embarked on a significant initiative aimed at bolstering the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) capabilities. The focus is on the development of three ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) platforms, crucial for enhancing surveillance and reconnaissance missions. This endeavour is part of a Technology Demonstration project, with substantial progress already made in crafting systems for air-to-ground surveillance.

The strategic importance of ISTAR platforms in modern military operations cannot be overstated. These platforms play a pivotal role in providing real-time intelligence, enabling effective monitoring of battlefield situations, and addressing border tensions. As the need for such assets has been long pending, DRDO’s initiative aligns with the evolving requirements of the Indian armed forces.

In a forward-looking move, DRDO is set to initiate the global tendering process for the ISTAR platform aircraft. The contenders for this crucial role are the Bombardier Global 6000 private jets and the Gulfstream G550 business jet. The selection of the platform aircraft is a critical decision, as it forms the backbone of the IAF’s intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

The integration of ISTAR platforms into the IAF’s arsenal complements the existing capabilities provided by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Together, they enable comprehensive tracking of enemy assets across borders, facilitate signal intelligence gathering, and pinpoint adversary radar and air defence positions. This holistic approach enhances the IAF’s operational efficiency and response capabilities.

The decision to develop an indigenous ISTAR platform underscores the commitment to self-reliance and technological advancement in India’s defence sector. This move comes on the heels of the IAF’s clearance for additional indigenous ‘Netra’ early warning and control aircraft. The acquisition of six more ‘Netra’ aircraft, as part of a $1 billion plan, reflects the ongoing efforts to integrate force multipliers into the Air Force.

The ISTAR platform, once operational, is poised to set new benchmarks for the IAF’s Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) capabilities. With enhanced air-to-ground surveillance abilities, these platforms will significantly contribute to the IAF’s situational awareness, ensuring a proactive and effective response to emerging threats.

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