India's UAV Usage

By: Jacob Taylor

India has developed many of their own drones, deploying one of the largest drone fleets in the world (with over 400[1] drones currently in use). They've built 3 of their own drones (Nishant, Rustom, Lakshya) and three more (AURA, Pawan, Gagan) are in development. The AURA will have a similar feature set to our current-generation drones, and it actually appears to be an attempt at cloning our RQ–170 Sentinel. They've also purchased drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (Harpy, Heron, Searcher, Harop), which comprises a majority of their fleet. The Heron, the Rustom-II, and the Lakshya-II have missile-strike capabilities, as will the AURA when completed. The Harop is a suicide drone, it flies over a target area and flies itself (It's a missile with wings) into the target (such as anti-air weapons or portable SAM missile launchers).

The Indian military has zero problems with drone usage, and have recently publicly declared support for drones. Policy is moving forward on this, with an intended 200billion USD update to the Indian military, the lion's share of which will be in drone purchases and development, over the next 12 years. India is strongly pushing the US Government to give them armed Predator drones for "Effective anti-extremist activities". That may be the case, but Pakistan is also pushing for Predators. India has no reusable armed drones (all of their current models fly themselves into the target), and if Pakistan gets Predators (and India doesn't), India will be at a serious technological disadvantage in the region. This potentiality has to be making them sweat bullets. If we give either (and not both) countries drones, we'd be picking sides in their scuffle over Kashmir.

India has deployed UAV's over the Kashmir region, and within other areas of Indian airspace against Naxalite (militant communist) groups in-country.

It is my belief that India supports extrajudicial killing with UAV's on foreign soil, but they are in a light proxy military engagement with Pakistan over the Kashmir region. They claim ownership over the area, and thus they are using drones over their own territory (by their claims). This means they are not violating any laws in their eyes, as it's their territory and thus their prerogative. Top Indian Brass enthusiastically supports drone use.


1: Someone contacted me recently asking about the source for this number. Due to a few factors, including how hard the Indian military is making it to find any information on how many and what kind of drones they possess and operate, I have used an Indian Nationalist youtuber's number here. YouTube link. Times Of India cites 100 drones. Truthfully, it is probably somewhere in the middle. I erred towards the upper end because of the level of spending India has undertaken to produce indigenous drones, and procure ones from IAI.