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India eyeing UCAVs in global market

NEW DELHI, July 13 (UPI) -- Indian armed forces have entered the global market in search of stealthy, unmanned combat air vehicles.

Local news reports suggest that the military authorities have requested information from defense companies in Europe, Israel, the United States and Russia about the aircraft.

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Defense News reported that the information request concerned unmanned combat air vehicles with "low radar cross-section, high service ceiling and an expected range of 500 nautical miles."

It said the Indian armed forces also wanted the aircraft to "carry precision guided weapons in an internal weapons bay." Experts argue that precision guided weapons minimize collateral damage while maximizing the destruction of a target, on the other.

In the latest issue of India Strategic magazine, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi said the Indian armed forces had "completed" its planned induction of unmanned aerial vehicles required for surveillance and was moving toward the armed unmanned vehicles for offensive roles.

"We do not have them yet but in due course we need to acquire them due to the emerging symmetric and asymmetric threats," the air chief said in the interview.

He didn't elaborate.

Among the options India is considering are the Boeing Phantom Ray, the Dassault-led Neuron, the EADS Barracuda, General Atomics Predator Avenger, Northrop Grumman X-47B and the RSK MiG Skat.

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Bent on bolstering its military might, India announced plans recently to spend up to $30 billion on its military by 2012.

Last month, for example, it introduced a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile into its armed forces unveiling also a defense spending budget spiked by 24 percent since last year.

The moves have Pakistan fretting, with leading officials billing India's drive a "massive militarization."

Since winning independence in 1947, India has fought three wars with Pakistan. Fifteen years later, in engaged in a brief but bitter war over a border dispute that remains unsettled.

In recent months, the United States unveiled plans to provide Pakistan with 12 unmanned spy drones to boost surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities over its border regions.

It is understood that a special team of Indian experts will select the sophisticated aircraft submitted by bidders before they enter field evaluations that will be funded by the manufacturer.

India has previously worked with Israeli manufacturers in supplying the country with drones. Israel though has yet to disclose of any designs for a stealth unmanned aerial vehicle for the Indian air force.

Tyagi has said that the main endeavor of the project would be to achieve regional air dominance.

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