Air Chief’s comments indicate that the procurement of the airborne force multiplier under the India-US DTTI framework is on track reports BW

India is “actively pursuing” the acquisition of ISTAR, a high-tech ground surveillance aircraft and battlefield support system, Indian Air Force Chief VR Chaudhari said on October 8.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari’s comments indicate that the estimated $3 Billion procurement of five ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) aircraft under the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) framework is on track. The ISTAR is a key force multiplier.

A prolonged silence since the deal was proposed under the DTTI in 2019 had cast a shadow of uncertainty. The Air Chief’s remarks provide clarity.

‘We are actively pursuing the acquisition of ISTAR, UAVs, Counter UAS technology and strengthening our networks,” he said during his address at the Air Force Day Parade in Chandigarh.

The ISTAR combines Raytheon sensors and systems on a Bombardier platform. It is in service in the US and Royal Air Forces.

The proposal involves the sale of one ISTAR aircraft by the US to India and collaboration on the development of sensors for the replication of a similar capability in India.

Open source literature on the platform describes its capabilities in terms of a “MULTI INT Solution capable of exploiting image, SIGINT and track info from sensors and provide actionable intelligence for tactical and strategic advantage”, using artificial intelligence and data analytics to process useful information received from all sensors.

“The advent of drones, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons and space-based ISR systems have added a new dimension to war fighting. To effectively handle the full spectrum, artificial intelligence is being used for quicker decision making and analysis of big data. I am happy to report that several projects are well underway to utilise the potential of Automation, Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence to transform our operational philosophy,” Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said.

“Our fighting potential has to be sustained over the years through the induction of 4.5 Gen fighters, AWACS, AEW&C and Flight Refuelling Aircraft. We have initiated necessary steps to ensure our fighter sqn strength remains at the desired level. Indigenous development of six AEW&C MK-II has been sanctioned and we are actively pursuing the acquisition of ISTAR, UAVs, Counter UAS technology and strengthening our networks,” he said, elaborating on his capability build-up plans.

The Air Chief also used the occasion to reiterate the IAF’s commitment to the Government’s Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) agenda in Defence Production, acknowledging that modern armed forces have to be sufficiently self-reliant to ensure minimum disruptions.

“Towards this, Atmanirbharta and Make in India is a step in the right direction. Our indigenous operational network AFNET, the backbone of all air operations IACCS, one of the largest maintenance management protocols 5 e-MMS and the fact that we are completely paper less in our offices through the e-Office application is a testimony to our commitment towards becoming self-reliant. The LCA, ALH, Akash Surface to air missile, Astra BVR, LCH and BrahMos are a few examples of the indigenous hardware that has already been inducted and operationalised. We have signed a contract for 83 TEJAS MK-1A and are fully committed to the development of LCA Mk-II and the AMCA,” the Air Chief Marshal said.