India’s Rustom MALE UAV: A Step Forward – Or Back?

The Indian Army has decided to cancel a two decade long indigenous Nishant UAV program after the third of four in use by the army crashed near the city of Jaisalmer on November 4.

17th Nov 2015


 

India’s Rustom MALE UAV: A Step Forward – Or Back?

 

The Indian Army has decided to cancel a two decade long indigenous Nishant UAV program after the third of four in use by the army crashed near the city of Jaisalmer on November 4. The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) had been developing the Nishant UAV since 1995 with the aim of developing India’s own reconnaissance and intelligence gathering abilities. Phase 1 had seen four of the UAVs introduced in 2011 and continuation would have seen 8 more orders of the UAV by the army. The announcement comes shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s recent push to increase development within India’s private defense industry and the sharing of indigenously designed Rustom UAVs by the government. In the wake of the Nishant duds, these companies may be best served looking elsewhere for design ideas.

India has not been left out of the global UAV push. The country operates Israeli Searcher tactical UAVs, and Heron Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, placing an additional Heron order in 2005.  It has also undertaken development programs for a smaller UAV, the “Nishant”. With its “Rustom” program, however, India hopes to offer a UAV in the Heron/ Predator/ Watchkeeper class of MALE UAVs.

It had also hoped to begin to change a culture and tradition of wholly state-owned development of military hardware, which has not always performed well, or served India’s needs. A recent award has selected a winner, and moved the project forward. It may also serve as a reminder that bureaucracies are very difficult to change.

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