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Aero India 2023

India's unmanned roadmap is not only for UAVs but also for systems: Navy chief


Indian Navy's IL-38 aircraft, also known as winged stallions, during its drawdown ceremony culminating its 46 years of service, in Goa, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. A PTI Photo

PANAJI (PTI): Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar has said India's "unmanned roadmap" is not only for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) but also for the unmanned systems.

He was talking to reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of the decommissioning of the last of its Ilyushin Il-38SD Sea Dragon Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft at the INS Hansa base in Vasco.

"India's unmanned roadmap is not just for UAVs but it is also for unmanned systems...The roadmap has been promulgated in the year 2021 with the approval of the Ministry of Defence. We anticipate, and work is in progress for the induction of unmanned aircraft," he said.

The government has approved to take up the case of 31 HALE (high-altitude long-endurance) class unmanned aerial vehicles for all three services, he said.

"At the same time, we are also looking at unmanned surveillance vessels, unmanned underwater vessels with different capabilities, different endurance to different tasks," Admiral Kumar said.

"The unmanned roadmap is to facilitate industry to understand what are the challenges that we are giving out to them, to work on them and try and produce satisfactory solutions for the navy," he added.

When asked whether following the decommissioning of the IL38 aircraft, the squadron 315 would be revived, the navy chief answered in the affirmative.

"It will be revived. There are plans for the maritime patrol aircraft to be inducted. Right now, P-8I and Dornier are used as a manned aircraft. There is a plan for taking up the C295 aircraft as well in the medium range of maritime patrol," he said.

Admiral Kumar said there was an option of inducting those (C295) aircraft or inducting some P-8Is in the squadron (315).

"The P-8I aircraft is a game changer. It is a modern aircraft. It has phenomenal capability. It has weapon capability...supportability issues are not there with it," he said.

According to the navy chief, P-8Is are easier to maintain and are "very good with performance".

"We will see, if we need more aircraft, then we will do that. But we are examining it in the light of areas of interest that we need to keep under surveillance. Holistically we have to see where the gap is and how much is required," he said.

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