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Friday, October 28, 2011

Swadeshi pride vs software stability? Army keeps DRDO on toes over UAV Nishant induction


 (Above) A rare photo of Nishant captured soon after its release from a mobile launcher. (Below) Indian Army officials inspect unmanned aerial vehicle Nishant during confirmatory trials at Pokhran.
Photo: Ministry of Defence

By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: The Indian Army is yet to induct the desi Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Nishant even after completing the confirmatory trials in Pokhran and Chandan ranges in February this year. Its makers in Bangalore – the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) – a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) installation, had then gone to the town trumpeting the UAV's success.
“The successful flight trials were conducted by the Army before taking delivery of a set of four Nishant together with ground support equipment (GSE). The performance of the pay load sensors in particular has been better than even the imported UAVs with the Army . It is expected that more of such equipment will soon be purchased (read as eight) by the users," the DRDO had said in an official release issued in February.
While the ADE top brass refused to any share information, sighting the sensitives involved at this stage, sources in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in New Delhi confirmed to The New Indian Express, that post-confirmatory trials, another last set of evaluation was also done by the Indian Army in September this year, at two DRDO labs. “As far as we know, the final tests were for electro-magnetic interference (EMI), electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) and maintenance evaluation trials (MET),” MoD sources said.
The General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) for the Nishant project was given to the DRDO by the Indian Army in 1999, soon after the developmental trails were over. While, some quarters blame the Army for changing the GSQRs a number of times, the DRDO too was accused of taking too much time in executing the technology changes.
The four Nishants waiting to be inducted, at a cost of Rs 80 crore, have onboard a forward looking infra red (FLIR) camera which would aid night operations. The upgraded Nishant can spot a tank-size object at a slant range of six-seven km while flying at an altitude of of 1.5 km.
While the DRDO might be pondering over the induction procedures of Army, sources indicate that a decision would be officially announced within two months. The DRDO is pitching hard on Nishant's USPs, including low repair cost and quick software maintenance modes. On its part, the Indian Army is ensuring that they have a UAV loaded with their choice of features – and not one thrust upon them to satisfy the swadeshi pride, but operational efficiencies.
Army had issues with Nishant's video and tracking qualities, which the DRDO now says are all fixed.The Indian Army might place an order for eight more Nishants, including GSE, at a cost of Rs 160 crore, once the much-awaited induction of first four is over.
NISHANT TIMELINES

Sanctioned as a development project: 1991
Development trials: 1999
User evaluation & trials: 2000-2002
Firm Army order for 4 LSPs: 2006
Value of the order: Rs 80 crore
Confirmatory trials: 2010-2011
Post-confirmatory tests: September 2011
Total R&D cost so far: Rs 60 crore
Likely additional orders: 8
(Source: Ministry of Defence)



Copyright@The New Indian Express


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