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India is set to bolster its aerial surveillance capabilities by procuring three Bombardier Global 6000 private jets for conversion into advanced Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) platforms. These jets will be equipped with state-of-the-art sensor packages developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to enhance the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) reconnaissance capabilities.

DRDO’s Center for Airborne Systems (CABS) laboratory will play a pivotal role in developing the sensors for these ISTAR platforms. The sensor package will include a Multispectral (EO-IR) Long-Range Oblique Photography (LOROP) sensor, a geo-spatial intelligence processing and exploitation suite, high data-rate line-of-sight (LOS) and Satcom data-links, an onboard mission communications suite, and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities for image intelligence, automatic target recognition, change detection, and a Common Operational Picture (COP).

Initially, India had plans to procure these aircraft directly from US defense contractor Raytheon, which would provide the technology for the ISTAR program. However, it now appears that DRDO’s CABS will take charge of the program to develop these advanced surveillance capabilities domestically.

The ISTAR platform’s primary function is to intercept enemy signals and provide critical information to ground commanders, enabling them to make informed decisions about counterstrikes. It offers precise targeting data, helping ground forces determine the optimal weapons and their exact deployment.

The ISTAR-equipped aircraft will maintain a two-way communication link with all reconnaissance platforms, including satellites, other aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, and ground reconnaissance vehicles. This seamless coordination ensures that real-time intelligence is shared among all relevant assets, enhancing situational awareness and response capabilities.

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