India-US to co-develop Air launched UAV

IDD Bureau

In a first of its kind move, India and the US are at an advanced stage of collaborating on co-developing an ‘air launched UAV’ that will include participation of an Indian private sector start-up company.

This will be under the DTTI, or the Defecne Technology  Trade Initiative, of the two countries, indicating deepening ties.

The US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord spoke about the upcoming project at the ‘India Ideas Summit’ a web-based discussion on ‘India, Multilateralism, and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ organized by the US India Business Council (USIBC) on late on July 21  Indian time.

Lord said “Under the DTTI we are negotiating an air launched UAV”. This will be co-developed  by the  US Air force and DRDO ( Defence Research and Development Organisation), The Indian Air Force and a Indian start up, Lord said.

A screen grab of what the USIBC tweeted

Another  meeting of the DTTI is scheduled in September. The US official also spoke about opportunities for the Indian private companies in the life cycle support and MRO ( maintenance repair  and overhaul) sector.

The Deputy Managing of Bharat Forge Amit Kalyani  said India will increasing rely on the private sector to become a defence and aerospace giant and it’s was critical for American and Indian businesses to  forge strong relationships.

.Other participant at the talk included Vivek Lall  Chief Executive of US company General Atomics Global Corporation. Rick Rossow, Senior Advisor, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) moderated  the event that was part of two-day programme.

A USIBC tweet on the subject

What is an air launched UAV

Though the contours of the air launched UAV are unclear for now. Some time in 2015 the  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) an agency of the United States Department of Defense, had  invited private US based companies to come propose what they can make.

The DTTI US-India project is expected to use However, she did indicate the systems could likely launch from aircraft operated by both nations, specifically the C-130J and C-17.  Tragetted use is  humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cross-border operations and inspecting unreachable areas.

In the past US officials have declined to confirm if the DTTI project draws upo from the DARPA’s ‘Gremlins’ program, which wants to launch and recover reusable drone swarms using manned aircraft. The first test flight of the same was done in November 2019 and declared to be successful in January this year. Read  it here

A unmamned air lauched UAV test flight in Nov 2019. PIC DARPA

The idea of an air launched UAV is the ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UAS) with coordinated, distributed capabilities for an improved operational flexibility at much lower cost. These air-launched UAV’s can be retrieved for reuse while being airborne.

A large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft, could be able be lanuch such UAV’s while planes are out of range of adversary defenses.

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