Taking a cue from dynamic tech-infused wars such as Armenia-Azerbaijan and Russia-Ukraine in the contemporary world, India has taken delivery of an Israeli-origin, India-made surveillance drone from the Indian manufacturer Adani Defense and Aerospace to boost its drone warfare capabilities.
At an event on January 10 in Hyderabad, a primary arms manufacturing hub in southern India, Indian Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar flagged off the delivery of the Hermes UAV, rechristened as Dhristi-10 Starliner, an advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform with 36 hours of endurance and 450 kg payload capacity. Dhristi in Sanskrit means “Vision.”
The only all-weather military platform with NATO’s STANAG 4671 (standardized agreement 4671) certification for the UAV system’s airworthiness can fly in segregated and unsegregated airspace. The UAV will now be taken from Hyderabad to Porbandar to be inducted into naval maritime operations, Adani Defense and Aerospace said in a statement.
“The Drishti-10 — true to its name — has ‘seen’ the light of the day in just ’10 months’ post conclusion of the contract, Admiral Harikumar said at the ceremony, adding that this delivery of the sophisticated platform was achieved, despite challenges posed by your industry partner’s (Israel’s Elbit Systems) preoccupations due to the ongoing conflict in West Asia, an euphemism for the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“The importance of autonomous systems in the rapidly evolving and dynamic tech-infused wars of the contemporary world needs no emphasis. Sitting in our homes, we witness their disproportionate impact on the ongoing conflicts in Europe and West Asia. Further, the recent incidents in the Northern Arabian Sea amply demonstrate the challenges posed by such systems when they fall into the hands of non-state actors and terrorists,” the Admiral said, also referring to the recent drone attack on a cargo vessel just over 200 nautical miles off India’s western coast in the Arabian Sea.
Admiral Hari Kumar also noted that autonomous systems were becoming a preferred choice in the ‘Order of Battle’ for nations across the globe. “Both our immediate neighbors (Pakistan and China) collectively hold a massive inventory of UAVs. Therefore, it is only prudent that we, as a nation and as armed forces, continue to harness our resident expertise in this domain by remaining agile, adaptable, and ahead of the curve.”
The Indian Navy, he said, has been operating UAVs for over two decades now. However, the development of Drishti symbolized the Indian Navy’s ‘Vision’ to be a self-reliant and ‘Future-Proof’ force. “Our commitment to the indigenization of such sophisticated and niche platforms also cements our stature as a trailblazer amongst the Armed Forces in adopting and integrating pole-vaulting technologies.”
With state-of-the-art sensors, enhanced endurance, advanced communication capabilities as well as new-age technologies like Automatic Take Off and Landing (ATOL), Drishti would be a potent force multiplier, adding capability and credibility in undertaking Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) across the Indian Ocean Region. Additionally, the versatility and flexibility offered through modularity and mobility of ground support equipment would enable the Indian Navy to operate Drishti from naval air stations across India.
“Once fully developed, Drishti would play a pivotal role in shaping the future naval operations towards safeguarding India’s national maritime interests in the Indian Ocean and ensuring maritime security in collaboration with India’s friends and partners in this region,” the Admiral said.
Along with the Indian Navy, the Indian Army’s Aviation Wing will receive two of the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Hermes 900 Starliner Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), which Adani Defense and Aerospace is manufacturing at its Hyderabad production facility. The acquisition is part of an emergency procurement for both the army and the navy, according to Indian Ministry of Defense officials, who requested not to be named.
On March 7, 2023, Elbit Systems announced that it would soon fulfill the 120th order for the Hermes 900 RPAS, and the Indian orders could be part of this announcement, Janes speculated then. On its website, Elbit Systems describes the StarLiner as a derivative of the Hermes 900. The company said that the StarLiner can carry and operate multiple sensors simultaneously.
Elbit Systems also described the StarLiner as a heavy-fuel, engine-powered MALE UAS optimized for operation in civil environments and adverse weather conditions. The drone’s payload options include laser designators or markers, the SkEye wide area persistent video surveillance system, the SPECTRO XR multispectral electro-optic (EO) payload, L3Harris Wescam MX-15/-20 EO imagers, Rafael VisionMapʼs MIST G dual-spectral airborne mapping and surveillance system, Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI)/maritime patrol/search-and-rescue (SAR) radars, and electronic warfare (EW) systems.
- NC Bipindra is a 30-year veteran in journalism specializing in strategic affairs, geopolitics, aerospace, defense, and diplomacy. He has written extensively for the Times of India, New Indian Express, Press Trust of India, and Bloomberg News. He can be reached at ncbipindra (at) gmail.com
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