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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up for a new era of aerial warfare, setting its sights on armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to bolster its offensive capabilities. Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary recently announced the IAF’s interest in acquiring larger UAV platforms capable of carrying out targeted strikes, marking a significant shift in the country’s defense strategy.

This move comes amid the IAF’s satisfaction with the domestic development of smaller drone technologies. “We are happy with the development of swarm drones and loitering ammunition by private sector companies,”. Several orders have already been placed for these agile and cost-effective options, ideal for reconnaissance, surveillance, and close-range attacks.

However, the IAF now seeks larger, armed UAVs capable of deeper penetration and more potent strikes. This is where the DRDO’s Archer-NG enters the picture. The first Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV program specifically designed for armed missions, Archer-NG is slated for rollout by March 2024 and weapons trials by next year.

The Archer-NG boasts an impressive endurance of over 24 hours, a cruise speed of 200 km/h, and a payload capacity of over 400 kg. This allows it to carry and deploy a range of weapons, including air-to-surface missiles and precision-guided munitions, making it a versatile platform for strike missions against enemy ground targets.

The significance of Archer-NG extends beyond the IAF. All three branches of the Indian armed forces – Army, Air Force, and Navy – are keenly interested in the program, recognizing the potential of armed drones to revolutionize modern warfare. Their incorporation into the military inventory promises enhanced battlefield awareness, tactical flexibility, and precision strike capabilities.

Choudhary’s announcement underscores the IAF’s proactive approach to embracing cutting-edge technologies. India’s focus on developing and deploying indigenous armed UAVs not only strengthens its national security but also positions it as a leader in this rapidly evolving field. As the Archer-NG takes flight, it serves as a powerful symbol of India’s growing prowess in the skies, ready to face the challenges of the future battlefield.

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