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India, US to collaborate on drone swarms & other military hi-techs

US undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen M Lord, after co-chairing the DTTI meeting with secretary (defence production) Subhash Chandra said the two countries had agreed on seven projects in the meeting.

, TNN|
Oct 25, 2019, 10.33 AM IST
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There have been mysterious drone swarm attacks on military bases, including a Russian one in Syria, in recent times.
(This story originally appeared in on Oct 24, 2019)
NEW DELHI: India and the US are now getting set to collaborate on futuristic military technologies to develop drone swarms, which can overwhelm and destroy the air defences of an adversary, as well as the counter-measures to thwart such attacks launched by an enemy.

This was decided in the 9th meeting of the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which has failed to deliver since it was established in 2012 to jointly develop high-tech military technologies like infantry combat vehicles, advanced helicopters and jet engines, here on Thursday.

“I know that in the past, there have been frustrations with progress under DTTI but I can assure you that we are making considerable progress now,” said the US undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen M Lord, after co-chairing the DTTI meeting with secretary (defence production) Subhash Chandra.

Lord said the two countries had agreed on seven projects in the DTTI meeting. The “short-term” ones, which should be finalized within six months or so, are the air-launched small aerial systems (drone swarms), light-weight small arms technology and ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance) systems.

The “medium-term” projects include maritime domain awareness (MDA) solutions and “virtual augmented reality solutions for aircraft maintenance (VAMRAM)”. The “long-term” ones, in turn, are “terrain-shaping obstacles” (lethal munitions) and anti-drone technology called “counter-UAS rocket, artillery and mortar systems”.

The projects on the air-launched small aerial systems, which can be used from the C-17 Globemaster-III and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft acquired by the IAF, and the counter-UAS systems are indeed cutting-edge in modern-day warfare.

The sheer lethality of drone swarms -- low-cost, intelligent and expendable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) -- working in conjunction with cruise missiles was brought home in the devastating attack on the biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia just last month. There have also been mysterious drone swarm attacks on military bases, including a Russian one in Syria, in recent times.

The seven projects have been identified in the joint statement of intent (SoI) inked on Thursday to deepen defence technology cooperation and interoperability between the two nations. “The SoI outlines the need for detailed planning and measurable progress on the specific short, middle and long-term DTTI projects identified in the document,” said Lord.

The DTTI stand-operating procedure is also likely to be finalized in the next “two-plus-two” dialogue that is likely to be held between the defence and foreign ministers of India and US in Washington in December, she added.

Sources said the two countries have also finalized the Industry Security Annex (ISA), which will allow the US to safely transfer classified military technologies to Indian private sector companies. This comes after the bilateral military pact called COMCASA (Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement) was inked in September 2018. The COMCASA has paved the way for India to get greater access to advanced military technologies with encrypted and secure communications and data links like armed Predator-B or Sea Guardian drones.

With the US having already inked lucrative arms contracts worth over $17 billion with India since 2007, New Delhi has lined up proposed defence deals worth another $10 billion with Washington over the next two-three years.

But the much-touted DTTI to transform the “buyer-seller” relationship into co-development and production of advanced weapon systems has remained a mere pipedream till now. The drone swarm technology and the counter-measures might just kick-start it.
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