Despite Rustom-2, India still cannot counter China's drone programme

The country is still dependent on others namely France, Israel and the US for its Drone strike capability

India's Rustom drones

India has been a late starter in using drones as an attack strategy in modern warfare, in fact, the Rustom series is not a new phenomenon. It was initiated in the 80s by the DRDO by late Rustom Damania as part of operational requirement for the three services – Army, Navy and Air Force.

India's Rustom-1 drones were first tested in 2009, although it failed in its first attempt, crashing to the ground. In successive flights thereafter, Rustom-1 flew uninterrupted and is now part of Army’s arsenal but in 2020 with Chinese troops lurking along the Line of Actual Control(LAC), India's defence establishment has felt the need to not only just upgrade its drone technology but "upgrade" its attack capability as well looking out for US technology in the form of MQ-9 Reaper drones.

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India’s Rustom-2 drone

A few years ago, India had test-launched the Rustom-2 drone at Chalakere in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district. It was primarily meant for surveillance built on the US predator model. The Rustom -2 series was initiated keeping in mind India’s defence needs.

The “test-flight” was significant considering it was the first flight in “user configuration with higher power engine” which generally means it has an enhanced surveillance capability, some observers feel upto 24 hours.

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India yet to enter the big game

India has still not entered the “big game” of attack drones which is dominated by the Israel and the US. India’s biggest threat will come from China which has a large integrated UAV project in place.

Even though the successful test-flight of Rustom-2 will reduce India’s dependency on Israel but the country still does not have attack capability.

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India's dependency

India has no doubt recognised the need to ramp up its Drone capability. India’s Defence ministry recently floated a notification to local manufacturers to make UAVs as PM Modi’s “Make in India” gathers steam.

However, India is still dependent on others namely France, Israel and the US for its Drone strike capability.

Reports say India would need upto 5,000 UAVs over the next 10 years – an extraordinary number given the fact the numbers at present with the India’s defense forces is nowhere near it.

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US defence strategy

The Trump administration's arms policy is based on broad basing its defence strategy and allow countries like India which deal directly with China on all fronts to arm them with resources consistent with their demand.

Reinterpreting the MTCR is part of a broader Trump administration effort to sell more weapons overseas, according to a report by Reuters.

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Pakistan worried

India has much to think about and maybe should be nervous about the fact that with China’s growing influence in Pakistan with the CPEC project, the Abassi-led government would not be wasting much time to start a drone programme with China’s help, already there are murmurs within the Pakistan government over India’s successful testing of Rustom-2 drone.

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China's UAV mission

China is of course going full throttle on its UAV mission.

In July last year, China started commercial production of the deadly CH-5 Rainbow, which it says is better than the US-made Reaper Drones.

The CH-5 is also available at half the cost, a dangerous precedent for India given its geo-political scenario.

(Photograph:Zee News Network)

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