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The Indian Armed Forces have decided to revive “Project Cheetah” amidst tensions with China. The project was pending for a long time. The tri-services have now decided to revive the project. ‘Project Cheetah’ is likely to cost the exchequer over Rs 3,500 crore. Experts believe, the decision to revive the project was taken, considering that Pakistan and China are using armed UAVs in large numbers.
The proposal of reviving ‘Project Cheetah’ has been sent to a newly formed high-level defence ministry committee under Ajay Kumar. Ajay Kumar is the defence secretary. He is in charge of all capital procurements of Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Under the project, around 90 Heron drones of the services are to be upgraded with laser-guided bombs, air launched anti-tank guided missiles and air to ground anti-tank guided missiles. The project was pending over a long period of time.
The Indian fleet of drones mainly includes Israeli equipment including Herons. They were deployed in both Indian Air Force and Army. They are currently deployed in Ladakh and China borders. The project is being launched to upgrade the drones that are carrying out offensive operations against the enemies especially in the borders. They will also be used to counter terrorism in the future. Currently, drones are used to verify disengagement by Chinese as well as to learn about their troop buildup.
Recently, the Pakistan air force planned to use 48 GJ-2 drones, the military version of Chinese Wing Loong II.
This ‘Project Cheetah’ will arm the Heron UAVs with laser-guided bombs, precision-guided munitions and anti-tank missiles. The tri-services have sent a fresh demand to the government for the ‘Project Cheetah’. The project Cheetah aims to arm the 90 Heron drone (UAV) with the guided-missile and bomb.
Heron is Israel made medium altitude long endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It can carry an array of sensors, including thermographic camera, intelligence system, visible light airborne ground surveillance and radar system totaling up to 250 kg. The Heron could return to the base if it lost connection with the ground station.
Under the project Cheetah, the Heron will be armed with SPICE missile and SPICE bomb (one used in Balakot airstrike). The SPICE is an Israeli made fire and forgets anti-tank guided missile. It can engage target up to the range of 4 Km. The precise guided-missile helps in eliminating the desired targets and thus minimizes the collateral damage in operation.
The SPICE Bomb is also an Israel-made smart bomb that stands for smart, precise, and cost effectiveness. It consists of inertial navigation, satellite guidance, and electro-optical sensors for pinpoint accuracy. The SPICE turns a conventional ‘gravity’ bomb into a sophisticated, long-range guided weapon.
- The UAVs of course provide an advantage in hostile territory.
- It can be a potent weapon in gathering intelligence in the harsh weather conditions like Himalayas.
- The upgraded UAVs can carry out surveillance and strike deep into the terrorist camps, enemy targets within and across the borders.
- The upgrade will also enable ground station to operate these aircraft from remote stations and control through satellite communication systems.