IAF eyes unmanned fighters

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 7.11.06
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New Delhi, Nov. 7: The Indian Air Force is looking to buy pilotless aircraft that can be armed to shoot targets on the ground without sighting them directly.

Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi has said after the planned induction of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance, his force was exploring opportunities to reinforce itself with combat aircraft that did not require pilots or gunners. “We do not have them yet, but in due course we need to acquire them because of the emerging symmetric and asymmetric threats,” the air chief said in an interview to India Strategic, a specialised military affairs journal.

Pilotless aircraft are not only expendable, they also save a fighting force valuable investment made in training personnel. But they are notorious for the “collateral damage” they can wreak.

The UAVs are capable of surveillance only but in recent wars, the US, the UK and Israel have experimented with arming UAVs. The US military has a force of nine to five warriors — UAV pilots who are operating the pilotless aircraft such as the Predator over Iraq and Afghanistan from near home bases in the mainland US. The Predators have been armed and used in wars.

More recently, Israel is said to have used an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) during the war against the Hizbollah in Lebanon in July-August. The ghastly massacre of women and children in Qana in southern Lebanon has been attributed to wrong intelligence fed into UCAV that bombed their shelter.

The IAF is currently raising a special cadre of “remote control warriors” dedicated to flying the Israeli-made Heron and Searcher Mark II UAVs. At least two of the imported UAVs are also being used to track down Naxalite hideouts in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh