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In a strategic move to bolster its defense capabilities, the Indian government, in March of this year, placed an emergency procurement order for Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 StarLiner unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). The order, aimed at enhancing the reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities of the Indian Army and Indian Navy, reflects India’s commitment to leveraging advanced technologies for national security.

The procurement order, while deemed urgent, consists of only two Hermes 900 drones each for the Indian Army and Indian Navy. However, the significance lies not just in the quantity but in the capabilities these medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) bring to the Indian defense apparatus.

Elbit Systems, in collaboration with Adani Defence, plans to commence the delivery of these state-of-the-art drones by mid-next year. The localization of assembly in India aligns with the country’s push for self-reliance in defense manufacturing.

The Hermes 900, known for its versatility and advanced features, offers a range of payload options, including laser designators, SkEye wide area persistent video surveillance system, SPECTRO XR multispectral electro-optic (EO) payload, L3Harris Wescam MX-15/-20 EO imagers, Rafael VisionMap’s MIST G dual-spectral airborne mapping and surveillance system, and more. This array of capabilities positions the Hermes 900 as a valuable asset for intelligence gathering, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions.

While the initial order consists of a limited number of drones, the Indian Army and Indian Navy are expected to closely monitor the performance of the Hermes 900 during operational deployment. Positive outcomes could lead to subsequent orders, with indications suggesting the possibility of acquiring a dozen more of these advanced UAVs.

It’s worth noting that the Indian Armed Forces, including the Indian Air Force, have a combined requirement for 155 MALE Class UAVs. The ongoing user trials of the indigenous Tapas MALE UAV, coupled with the recent procurement of Heron MkII MALE UAV from Israel by the Indian Air Force, underscore the strategic importance India places on enhancing its unmanned aerial capabilities.

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