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The Indian Armed Forces are gearing up for a significant boost in their aerial surveillance capabilities. According to a TimeNow report, a combined order for 91 Heron Mk2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is on the horizon, with local manufacturing by State-owned HAL likely.

This major acquisition comes on the heels of the Indian Air Force (IAF) already inducting four Heron Mk2s for operations along the tense northern borders with China and Pakistan. The new deal, if confirmed, is set to further equip the IAF with 42 additional units, while the Indian Army and Navy will receive 27 and 22 Heron Mk2s respectively.

Local manufacturing of the Heron Mk2 is a key aspect of the potential deal, aligning with India’s “Make in India” initiative. Reports suggest that HAL and IAI have been in talks for this collaboration, further confirmed at the 2022 Defence Expo in Gujarat.

These drones offer significant advantages, equipped with long-range observation sensors and radars capable of carrying specialized payloads. This includes equipment for electronic support measures (ESM), communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), and communication relays, making them versatile assets for gathering vital intelligence and maintaining communication networks.

Developed by IAI, the Heron Mk2 is a formidable platform, boasting an impressive 8.5-meter length, 16.6-meter wingspan, and a hefty 490-kilogram payload capacity. According to manufacturer specifications, it has a maximum take-off weight of 1,430 kilograms, an endurance of 45 hours, a service ceiling of 35,000 feet, and a maximum speed of 150 knots.

The potential acquisition of 91 Heron Mk2s signifies a significant step towards bolstering India’s aerial surveillance capabilities, particularly along its sensitive borders. These drones will offer enhanced situational awareness, improved intelligence gathering, and increased communication reach, significantly strengthening India’s defence posture.

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