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India kept a close watch on the high profile Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict that was replete with dramatic drone footage of airstrikes but India’s top military leadership feels that only unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) cannot win wars and are more important to the build-up of tensions.

Israeli Reference

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that India has similar capability available – a reference to the Israeli origin Harop/Harpy suicide drones in service – but UAVs are very susceptible to enemy action and have to be part of a larger mix of weapons in any conflict. “There will always be limitations when drones are used to attack in the way they have been used in this conflict. Some will fall to enemy action and a percentage will succeed. One should have a combination of such assets…(but) we cannot plan to win a war with just these,” the Air Chief said in response to a question by ET.

In Talks With US

On the exorbitant cost of acquiring armed drones – India is in talks with the United States to acquire 20 armed MQ 9 UAVs for an estimated $ 3 billion – the air chief said that finances need to be taken into account before going in for such capability.

Cost of Capabilities

“In case of the cost of drones, there is an issue. Capability has its own costs. In the final assessment before we go ahead we will factor all these aspects,” the top officer said, without getting into details of planned acquisitions.

Myriad Platforms

If the $3 billion deal with the US for armed drones goes through, it will be the most expensive unmanned platform ever bought by India, which till now has relied on Israeli technology. Besides an internal development program for armed drones, India is also weaponizing its Israeli origin UAVs with stand off weapon systems.