Indian Navy to commission new UAV squadron

Indian Navy to commission new UAV squadron

This will be the navy's second UAV squadron, with the first having coming up at Kochi in January 2006 for coastal reconnaissance on the western coast of India.

Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal will formally commission the squadron at a function in Porbandar Jan 17, a navy spokesperson said.

The new unit, Indian Navy Air Squadron (INAS) 343, will operate the Israeli-made Searcher MkII and Heron UAVs. The vavy released the crest of INAS 343 on Tuesday.

The Searcher MkII has a cruise speed of about 100 knots, a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and an 18-hour endurance. The Heron can touch speeds of over 100 knots with a service ceiling of 30,000 feet and anendurance of 40 hours.

The navy is also on the lookout for High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs for which a Request for Information (RFI) was issued last year. It is also searching for a shipborne unmanned rotorcraft (miniature unmanned helicopter) for reconnaissance operations while at sea.

In the HALE UAV RFI, the navy stated that it was looking for a platform with an all-up weight of less than 15 tons, with at least 25-hour mission endurance, a cruise speed of 100 knots and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet.

The surveillance enhancement efforts of the navy are in tune with the government's plans for a robust coastal security apparatus post the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike.

The UAV squadron at Porbandar is seen as a move to plug a critical gap in aerial surveillance along the western coast, as the Mumbai attackers had sailed close to the Gujarat coastline in a dhow before reaching the megapolis.