New Delhi, May 26 (PTI) India is expected to acquire four Heron long-endurance drones from Israel on lease in the next few months to primarily crank up its surveillance capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, people familiar with the development said on Wednesday.
The medium-altitude Heron drones are being procured by the Indian Army for three years and the first two of them are expected to be delivered by August, they said.
The drones are capable of operating for nearly 45 hours at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet.
An agreement to acquire the drones was finalised earlier this year, they said.
The Heron TP drones are equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing (ATOL) and satellite communication (SATCOM) systems for an extended range.
The drones will be fitted with ultra-long-range surveillance cameras and other state-of-the-art gadgets, they said.
India has been focusing on enhancing its surveillance over the nearly 3,400-km-long LAC after the eruption of a bitter face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh in early May last year.
India is also planning to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services at an estimated cost of over USD 3 billion.
The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drones, manufactured by US defence major General Atomics, are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours and can hunt down targets at land and sea.
Last November, the Navy got two non-weaponised MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US on lease for one year with an option of extending the period by another year.
The defence ministry had also finalised a plan to upgrade around 80-90 Heron drones which are being operated by the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force.
In view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh, the Army last year significantly ramped up the deployment of troops in all sensitive areas along the LAC.
India and China were locked in a military standoff at multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh since early May last year, but the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points. PTI MPB RT RT