The Indian Army will lease four Heron TP MALE drones from Israel over a three-year period for possible deployment along the 3,488-km India-China border. This is the Indian Army’s first time leasing military equipment, after a clause was introduced in the latest version of the Defence Acquisition Procedure. The Indian Armed Foces use a mix of previous generation Heron and Searcher 2 drones. The Heron TP is much more capable than its predecessor.The lease agreement was signed in mid-January using the emergency powers given to the armed forces to speed up purchases.
The IAI Heron (Machatz-1) is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by the Malat (UAV) division of Israel Aerospace Industries. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) operations of up to 52 hours’ duration at up to 10.5 km (35,000 ft). It has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight, but the effective operational maximal flight duration is less, according to payload and flight profile. An advanced version, the Heron TP, is also known as the IAI Eitan.
The IAI Heron TP is a multi-role, advanced, long range Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for strategic missions. It is equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing systems (ATOL) fully redundant avionics and more. The Heron TP was designed as a multi-mission platform to address local and international customers’ needs and to perform a variety of strategic missions. It is also equipped with Satellite Communications (SATCOM) for Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) range , and fully redundant avionics, among other highlights.
In the wake of this border stand-off near Ladakh, the Indian Government granted new ‘emergency powers’ to the army to buy any weapon systems under a certain fixed allocated amount. India is also reportedly planning to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services. The Indian Navy has already leased two non-weaponised General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9B Sea Guardian MALE UAVs from the US under this policy, but sources in the defence establishment said that the Israeli Heron TP performs better and is cheaper.