To vastly expand its drone program and firepower to its fleet, India is planning to equip its drones with missiles under a top secret programme codenamed “Project Cheetah”.
So far these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones have been used for reconnaissance and snooping purposes.
Under this project, the Indian Air Force will upgrade and equip its fleet of Israeli-made Searcher and Heron drones with missiles. It will cost the government Rs 10,000 crore and for this the IAF has joined hands with defence major – Israeli Aircraft Industry (IAI).
The armed drones will target terrorists and their hideouts, both within India and across the borders.
In this project Indian agencies, including the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics, will also share their experience.
The armed drones can destroy terrorist launch pads from the height of 30,000 feet, and fly over designated areas to gather accurate intelligence.
Experts believe the precision guided missiles would also help in specific elimination of the desired targets with none or minimum collateral damage in such operations.
These armed drones will be extremely helpful in areas such as Kashmir. As of now India has not used air power in the anti-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir or the north-east to flush out the terrorists.
Already, the US Army is using such drones to regularly smoke out terrorists using their MQ-1 Predators and Global Hawk.
At present, India has a fleet of over 200 drones bought from Israel and they are deployed on both eastern front with China and western front with Pakistan.
With such a capability in its fold, the IAF can unleash a silent punishment to terrorists from 30,000 feet over the ground.
The Indian Navy also has three operational squadrons of UAVs deployed along eastern and Western sea board. The Navy is now in the process of acquiring Predator XP drones used by the US Navy. It has sought 100 latest UAVs, both armed and surveillance versions worth US $2 billion from the United States.