India recently test-launched the Rustom-2 drone at Chalakere in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district

The country is still dependent on others namely France, Israel and the US for its Drone strike capability

Rustom Damania’s Brainchild

The Rustom series is not a new phenomenon. It was initiated in the 80s by DRDO by late Rustom Damania as part of operational requirement for the three services – Army, Navy and Air Force.

The first flight of Rustom-1 took place in 2009, although it failed in its first attempt, crashing to the ground. In successive flights thereafter, Rustom-1 flew uninterrupted and is now part of Army’s arsenal.

India Yet To Enter The Big Game
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) hs offered India the XP version of its Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

Rustom is primarily meant for surveillance built on the US predator model. The Rustom -2 series was initiated keeping in mind India’s defence needs.

The “test-flight” was significant considering it was the first flight in “user configuration with higher power engine” which generally means it has an enhanced surveillance capability, some observers feel upto 24 hours.

India has still not entered the “big game” of attack drones which is dominated by the Israel and the US. India’s biggest threat will come from China which has a large integrated UAV project in place.

Even though the successful test-flight of Rustom-2 will reduce India’s dependency on Israel but the country still does not have attack capability.

India's Dependency

India has no doubt recognised the need to ramp up its Drone capability. India’s Defence ministry recently floated a notification to local manufacturers to make UAVs as PM Modi’s “Make in India” gathers steam. However, India is still dependent on others namely France, Israel and the US for its Drone strike capability.

Reports say India would need upto 5,000 UAVs over the next 10 years – an extraordinary number given the fact the numbers at present with the India’s defense forces is nowhere near it. (Twitter)

China Exporting Drones

China Wing-Loong combat unmanned aerial vehicle

China on the other hand is not only ramping up its drone programme but has even started exporting them. China’s much touted Rainbow military drones are being eyed by Saudi Arabia, Iraq and “10 other” nations, reports say.

Three years ago, the Iraqi defence ministry had released a video showing a Chinese made drone -CH-4B - carrying out a missile attack on an Islamic State target. (Zee News Network)

Pakistan Worried

India has much to think about and maybe should be nervous about the fact that with China’s growing influence in Pakistan with the CPEC project, the Abassi-led government would not be wasting much time to start a drone program with China’s help, already there are murmurs within the Pakistan government over India’s successful testing of Rustom-2 drone. (Twitter)

China's UAV Mission

China is of course going full throttle on its UAV mission.

In July last year, China started commercial production of the deadly CH-5 Rainbow, which it says is better than the US-made Reaper Drones.

The CH-5 is also available at half the cost, a dangerous precedent for India given its Geo-political scenario.

Zee News Bureau