India is keeping a close watch on the high profile Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict that has been replete with dramatic drone footage of air strikes but the top military leadership feels that only unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) cannot win wars and are more important to the build-up of tensions.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that India has similar capability available – a reference to the Israeli origin Harop/Harpy suicide drones in service – but UAVs are very susceptible to enemy action and have to be part of a larger mix of weapons in any conflict.
“There will always be limitations when drones are used to attack in the way they have been used in this conflict. Some will fall to enemy action and a percentage will succeed. One should have a combination of such assets…(but) we cannot plan to win a war with just these,” the Air Chief said in response to a question by ET.
He described the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as interesting to watch and said that the role being played by the media in covering the crisis is being observed closely as well. The air chief said that drones have limitations and their role is most important in the build up to a conflict.
“Drones are an important part for surveillance and intelligence gathering. Their role in the build up to a conflict is very important. However, once the conflict starts, they do become susceptible to enemy action, which is a known fact,” he said.
On the exorbitant cost of acquiring armed drones – India is in talks with the US to acquire 20 armed MQ 9 UAVs for an estimated $ 3 billion – the air chief said that finances need to be taken into account before going in for such capability.
“In case of the cost of drones, there is an issue. Capability has its own costs. In the final assessment before we go ahead we will factor is all these aspects,” the top officer said, without getting into details of planned acquisitions.
If the $3 billion deal with the US for armed drones goes through, it will be the most expensive unmanned platform ever bought by India, which till now has relied on Israeli technology. Besides an internal development program for armed drones, India is also weaponizing its Israeli origin UAVs with stand off weapon systems.