Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar recently announced ongoing reviews regarding the potential integration of unmanned surveillance aircraft (UAVs) for carrier operations within the Indian Navy. The announcement came in the wake of the Royal Navy’s successful trial of the largest-ever uncrewed aircraft launched from an aircraft carrier, codenamed ‘Mojave.’

The ‘Mojave’ aircraft, operated remotely by a computer terminal ‘pilot,’ demonstrated its capabilities by taking off from and safely landing on the HMS Prince of Wales during a unique trial off the East Coast of the USA. With dimensions of nine meters in length, a wingspan of 17 meters (six meters wider than an F-35B Lightning stealth fighter), and a weight exceeding 1½ tonnes fully loaded, ‘Mojave’ represents a groundbreaking achievement in uncrewed aerial systems.

The Indian Navy has expressed interest in exploring similar capabilities, and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar confirmed ongoing discussions with the Royal Navy. He mentioned, “We’re also interested and are working with them,” hinting at potential collaboration in the development and deployment of UAVs for carrier operations.

Previously had reported that the Indian Navy is actively considering the operation of High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) and Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAVs from its proposed Second Aircraft Carrier. Modifications to the design of the INS Vikrant (IAC-) Aircraft carrier are being considered to accommodate UAV operations. The Navy is set to procure 15 MQ-9B SeaGuardian HALE UAVs, which are similar to the ‘Mojave,’ and will closely monitor flight trials to assess their performance and potential integration into future operations.

This move aligns with the Indian Navy’s strategic vision to enhance its capabilities through advanced technologies, providing it with increased flexibility, efficiency, and a force multiplier on the high seas. As discussions progress, the collaboration with the Royal Navy may pave the way for joint ventures or knowledge-sharing initiatives in the development of carrier-based UAV capabilities.

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