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The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army are increasingly turning their attention towards acquiring Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV air-launched loitering munitions from private sector companies within India. These cutting-edge munitions, currently under rigorous testing and development, promise to significantly enhance the operational capabilities of India’s armed forces.

Loitering munitions often referred to as “kamikaze drones” or “suicide drones,” are a hybrid between a missile and a UAV. They are designed to loiter in the airspace around a target area for an extended period, identify high-value targets, and then attack with precision. The canister air-launched versions of these munitions are notable for their innovative deployment method and operational flexibility.

The canister-launched loitering munitions can be deployed from MALE UAVs. This means that even UAVs not originally designed for combat roles can now be equipped with offensive capabilities. This flexibility is crucial for maximizing the utility of existing UAV fleets.

These munitions are powered by advanced air teaming software and artificial intelligence (AI). Once launched, they can autonomously search for and engage targets without requiring sensory input from the launch platform. This autonomy reduces the workload on the remote pilots and increases the precision and effectiveness of the strike.

 The launch of these munitions can be initiated by a remote pilot. This feature allows for strategic deployment, ensuring that the munitions are launched at the optimal time and place to maximize their impact.

 With a range of 100-150 kilometres, these loitering munitions provide substantial coverage and flexibility in targeting. They can be integrated not only on MALE platforms but also on attack helicopters, further extending their utility across various branches of the armed forces.

The autonomous nature of these munitions, powered by AI, ensures high precision in targeting. This minimizes collateral damage and increases the effectiveness of military operations. By enabling non-combat UAVs to launch offensive munitions, the overall firepower and versatility of the armed forces are greatly enhanced. 

The development of these AL LMs aligns perfectly with India’s push for indigenous defence technologies. This initiative could potentially complement programs like the Archer-NG, a domestically built MALE UAV designed for armed missions. 

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