With the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security clearing a deal for 15 additional IAI-Malat HERON-I medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the MoD is likely to sign a contract with Israel next month, making India the largest operator of the type.
With over 40 already in service with the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, and the Army looking to contract an unspecified number of longer-range variants of the Heron in the future, the numbers are on a steady upswing and not without reason. With the 40-odd airframes already in service undergoing endurance and sensor upgrade, the Heron-I has proven to be a deeply useful tri-service platform enmeshed well with Indian backbone technologies across the spectrum. IAI-Malat will, at Defexpo 2014, also pitch the long-range Heron TP drone for possible consideration as a loitering platform for extended border airborne surveillance and patrolling in the Northern and Western sectors. The Army currently operates Searcher Mk.2 drones, but is looking for higher performance systems given the increasing demands on unmanned surveillance.