The Army will have ‘Make in India’ “eyes in the skies” both at the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China for strengthening surveillance of cross-border terrorism and transgressions as also counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland. All the 600 infantry battalions manning the LoC and LAC apart from those deployed in the counter-terrorism grid will be equipped with mini-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The project is worth Rs 1,000 crore. The trials of the equipment, supplied by a dozen of odd competitors, began earlier this week. The Army expects to shortlist the ultimate vendor soon and the supplies are likely to begin within a year. The initial evaluation is on to determine if the UAVs meet the technical specifications as mentioned by the Army in its tender. The project is ‘Buy India’, meaning the Army will procure UAVs manufactured only by Indian vendors. It will be the first big deal to be inked under this category, sources said here on Friday. The mini-UAVs, weighing about 35 kg, can fly at height of over 4,000 to 5,000 metres and have a range of 10 km. They will be the armed forces’ eyes in the skies, sources said adding it means, the battalion commanders can get real-time information about movement of terrorists towards the LoC and transgressions by the Chinese Army into India at the LAC. The UAV can be controlled from a system carried in a backpack of a soldier and the commander just has to view the pictures generated by the “eye in sky” on a laptop or palm-sized screen, they said. Every battalion (1,000 soldiers) manning the 750-km long LoC in Jammu & Kashmir will get one UAV each. The same formula will be followed for the battalions guarding the 4,000 km long LAC touching States like Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. As per records, nearly 350 transgressions by the Chinese Army take place every year mostly in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The armies of the two countries had recently engaged in a face-off in Doklam in Sikkim for nearly 72 days and ultimately withdrawn after diplomatic and political interventions at the highest level in both the governments. Able to loiter for more than 120 minutes at a range of 10 km, the UAVs will relay images as they are happening, thereby, giving enough time to the Indian Army deployed at the LAC to prevent transgressions, officials said. Similarly, these UAVs will give more teeth to the operational commanders for dealing with infiltration from across the LoC, backed by the Pakistan Army and ISI. Moreover, the battalions guarding the LoC will get better “situational awareness about” any Pakistan Army build up or activity, they said. The Rashtriya Rifles(RR) battalions, part of the Army, engaged in counter-insurgency operations will also be equipped with the UAVs for dealing with militancy mostly in Jammu and Kashmir as the RR are deployed there. This acquisition will enhance the capabilities of the infantry which for the past few years is grappling with obsolete equipment including rifles, carbines, light and medium machine guns.
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