Indian Army wants loitering munitions, Needs 100 launchers

IDD Exclusive

Adding a new dimension to its war fighting abilities, the Indian Army is now going to get loitering drones, capable of being launched from man portable platforms.

Meaning two men carrying a ‘man-portable’ launcher can release a loitering drone which can do reconnaissance over an area and then direct itself to hit the target, all the while beaming live images and videos to commanders on ground.

Loitering drones, also known as Loitering munitions and often referred to as kamikaze drones, have been used by the US Army to telling-affect in Afghanistan. Today precision technologies allow the battle field commander to launch loitering munitions which are more like an automatic addition to any Army’s unmanned systems.

The Indian Ministry of Defence, has floated a request for information (RFI), the first stage of the tendering process saying “ the Government of India is desirous of procuring Loitering Munitions”. Read it here

“The system should have capability to loiter above the target, detect targets, enable real time decision making and carry out destruction of the target”.

Indian Army RFI

Inviting vendors , the MoD has asked for a response till April 20 while it has slated a ‘vendor interaction’ on April 7. The  second stage of the tender called the request for proposal (RFP), done after technical assessment of the bidding proposals, is expected in September 2020.

The first part of RFI incorporates operational parameters and broad technical requirements that should be met by the equipment , the second Part of RFI states the methodology seeking response of vendors.

Army wants 100 launch  systems

Indian Army is looking for man portable platform with sensors integrated with munition which can perform surveillance tasks by day and night and also execute pinpoint strikes with lethal munition.

“100 Loiter Munition Systems and the quantity should be delivered within eighteen  months from the date of signing of contract”.

Indian Army RFI

It has set a limit that the loiter munition system (launcher and its data  links) should be able to operate upto an altitude of 4500 meters ( 14700 feet). In other words it can operate all along the Himalayan ridgeline where India shares an undemarcated 3448 kms long frontier.

 Looking to keep it safe, the Army wants anti jamming and anti spoofing properties and have the munition operate at a range of not less than 15km.

The loiter munition system should be able to operate at a flight endurance of at least 30 minutes. It should be controlled by a ground controller with a data link established with the loiter munition system.

“It should have warhead to destroy personnel and other targets.  It should be able to detect targets by day and night, meaning be thermal capable”.

The system should function in all weather conditions and be capable of providing the desired performance across all spectrums of employment in the Indian terrain and climatic conditions.  

Man portable, means flexible

Army wants the system to be light weight, man portable easy for a soldier to carry and operate. The total weight of the loiter munition system should not more than 20 kilogram and should be operable with one/two persons.

File pic of troops launching a loitering munition called the ‘switchblade’.. Pic website of AeroVironment, Inc

The loiter munition system should be able to be packed and carried by not more than two personnel including the sub system and data link. It should be able to be air dropped placed on a platform system and flexible enough to slither down man packed from helicopters.

Why Loitering munitions

The US used the Switchblade, made by ‘AeroVironment’,  the loitering munition in Afghanistan. The switchblade can be carried on a soldier’s backpack and fired from a launch tube like the one used to launch a mortar. Over 4,000 Switchblades were deployed in ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan.

This is how a loitering munition operates. courtesy You tube video by Textron

Such weapons have been classified as Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS). US Company Textron has the ‘Battlehawk’ under what is  LMAMS requirements. Battlehawk is tube launched and has 30-minute endurance. Israeli company uVision makes the Hero range of loitering strike drones.

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