The Indian Navy is working on a 'path breaking' project to develop a new generation and longer-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to have deeper penetration in data collection and reconnaissance mechanism.
The rotary wing UAV designed like a helicopter and to be built jointly by Navy and the state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is expected to transform naval warfare.
"We are working with HAL to develop a new generation UAV on a helicopter platform. It will be a path breaking initiative and transform naval warfare," Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.
He said the UAV's payload bay will carry sophisticated art reconnaissance equipment, maritime patrol sensors and data transmitters to enable it to record images in enemy territory and transmit them back to naval bases.
HAL Chairman and Managing Director Ashok Baweja said funding and sanction for the project are already getting into place and it will be started soon.
"We have finalised the concept. The project clearance is on the way. We will start it shortly," he said after the function on Wednesday.
Asked about involvement of any foreign company in the project, Baweja said the HAL has already identified the foreign partner for the project but did not divulge further details.
"We have already identified the foreign partner. We will require their help in the project as there are certain inputs that we will need," he said.
He said the payloads of the UAV, apart from surveillance equipment will include larger fuel packs for longer endurance.
"The UAV will be able to operate for a long time in the enemy territory," Baweja said.
He said, "it is a very good project" which will strengthen intelligence gathering mechanism of the Navy and help it in tactical operations.
On the issue of fleet serviceability of Advanced Light Helicopter, 'Dhruv', he said it was "not because the machine has some problems".
Admiral Mehta said the Navy needed multi-role helicopters capable of carrying anti-submarine loads with increased endurance level.
"The Dhruv is a five tonne helicopter. We have been used to flying 10 tonne helicopter. And our requirement is something like 12 tonne," he said.
"We need helicopters which can carry the anti-submarine loads and have an endurance of about three to four hours.
So these are not met by Dhruv. Therefore it does not fit the bill," he said.
"It is a five tonne helicopter and can't do the job of 10 tonne helicopters," he said.
Dhruv is a twin-engine new generation helicopter in the 4.5-5.5-tonne weight class designed and developed by HAL for the armed forces.
It is a multi-mission helicopter capable of a wide range of military and civilian applications.
Asked about procurement of anti-submarine helicopters, Admiral Mehta said the Navy is carrying out improvement in its existing fleet of helicopters.
"We are doing first stage of improvement of our helicopters which is being done in India. After that we will change the sensor suites of these aircraft and simultaneously we will start the process for induction (of anti-submarine fleet) after five-six years," he said.