The Indian Army has signed a contract to procure more than 100 explosive-laden drones or ‘SkyStrikers’ under its emergency procurement powers. The drones which are used as force multipliers in Balakot types of missions will be manufactured in Bengaluru.
Bengaluru-headquartered Alpha Design-led joint venture (JV) with Israeli firm Elbit Security Systems (ELSEC) would make and supply SkyStrikers. The drones are required for “loitering munition”. The contract signed on Wednesday for the same was worth Rs 100 crore.
SkyStriker, as per the Elbit System’s website is a cost-efficient loitering munition that is capable of long-range precise tactical strikes.
The drone betters situational awareness, survivability, and performance by allowing special forces and maneuverable troops to harness its direct-fire aerial-precision capabilities.
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It is also referred to as a ‘suicide drone’ as it crashes into the target with explosives. ‘Suicide drones’ are autonomous systems that can independently locate, acquire and strike operator-designated targets with a 5-kilogram warhead that is installed inside the fuselage.
What makes it a surprise attacker is its minimal acoustic signature allowing it to covert operations at low altitudes.
“Location details (GPS) will be loaded onto the drone before launch. Upon launching, it will hover around the area, pick up the target, relay the information back to ground control equipment, and strike only after getting clearance,” Col (retd) HS Shankar, CMD, Alpha Design, told TOI.
He added that ground control can change targets after the launch and also call it back in case a mission has to be aborted. Alpha-Elbit JV has already exported 100 such drones and has orders for 100 more. Alpha owns 51% in the Joint Venture.
Apart from the army contract, Alpha Design has also procured two more defence contracts from Indian Air Force in the past week itself. One of them is for six VHF or Very High-Frequency radars. IAF was considering either upgrading the P18 radars it already has or buy new ones at the same cost when they finally decided to buy the new ones.
IAF issued EOIs and RFPs under emergency procurement which got responses from defence PSU BEL, Alpha Design, Astra Microwave, and Data Patterns. Alpha bagged the Rs 200+ crore contract last week being the lowest bidder (L1) while all four firms met the technical requirements.
Another IAF contract, for 60 Identification of Friend-or-Foe or IFF systems was procured by Alpha, BEL, and Data Patterns. The technology was developed by DRDO which will now be transferred to the three firms.
Prototypes built by all were approved but Alpha again emerged as the lowest bidder (L1 firm) to bag Rs 80+ crore contract signed on Sunday.