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Indigenous Rifle, UAV and Counter UAV

Atmanirbhar Bharat is soaring as indigenous UGRAM assault rifle and Drishti 10 Starliner drone mark major advances in domestic defence technology

January 13, 2024 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By X / Victorforce2, X / AdaniDefence, Instagram / drdo, SP Guide Pubns, Flying Wedge Defense & Aerospace Technologies
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


UGRAM 7.62x51mm assault rifle

On January 8, 2024 the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, which is part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), introduced the indigenous assault rifle ‘UGRAM’ in a formal programme organised at its laboratory premises. The laboratory also inaugurated its small arms’ barrel manufacturing facility that will provide barrels for small arms’ manufacturing for the Armed Forces and paramilitary forces.

UGRAM, meaning the ‘fierce one’, is an assault rifle of 7.62 x 51mm caliber. It has been developed in record time by the ARDE and the Hyderabad-based Dvipa Armour India Private Limited (DAIPL). The rifle has been demonstrated by the DAIPL and is being assembled under the supervision of ARDE scientists. According to ARDE scientist Gaurav Verma this completely indigenous assault rifle was developed within 100 days, it has a 20-round magazine that fires robust and full auto mode, with an effective range of 500 m and weighs less than four kg. After production of the prototypes, UGRAM will undergo comprehensive trials followed by bulk production and introduction into the Indian Armed Forces and the paramilitary forces.

The Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and Dvipa Armour India Private Limited (DAIPL) jointly developed the indigenous assault rifle 'UGRAM' in a remarkable 100 days, featuring a 7.62 x 51mm caliber, 20-round magazine, and weighing less than four kg.

In another significant development on January 10, 2024, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Hari Kumar took delivery of the first indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, Drishti 10 Starliner, acquired under the emergency procurement mechanism. Adani Defence and Aerospace (ADA) has an agreement with Israeli firm Elbit to manufacture the Hermes 900 at Hyderabad with ADA making the airframes. The name ‘Drishti 10 Starliner’ signifies that delivery of the drone to the Navy has materialised in just 10 months.

Adani Defence and Aerospace unveil Drishti 10 (Starliner)

Speaking at the flag-off ceremony at the Adani Aerospace Park, Admiral Hari Kumar said, “The induction of the UAV will most probably happen next month after the training of the personnel handling the platform gets over in January. The UAV will now be taken from Hyderabad to Porbandar for induction into naval maritime surveillance operations shared by other platforms such as MQ-9 SeaGuardian. This is a momentous occasion and a transformative step in India’s quest for self-reliance in ISR technology and maritime supremacy. Drishti 10’s integration will enhance our naval capabilities, strengthening our preparedness in the ever-evolving maritime surveillance and reconnaissance,” he told the gathering.”

The Indian Navy received the first indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, Drishti 10 Starliner, developed by Adani Defence and Aerospace (ADA). The delivery, under the emergency procurement mechanism, was completed in just 10 months.

The Drishti 10 Starliner has an endurance of 36 hours, satellite connectivity and the ability to carry a payload of 450 kg. These drones will boost India’s capabilities to closely monitor the movements in the Indian Ocean. It is the only all-weather military platform with NATO’s STANAG 4671 (standardised agreement 4671) certification for the UAV system’s airworthiness. ADA was contracted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) 10 months ago to supply four medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drones to the Indian Navy and Indian Army. Both the services will get two each in the next few months.

DRDO's Anti Drone solution

According to Admiral Hari Kumar, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared a proposal to get 31 HALE UAVs, out of which 15 are for the Navy and 16 for the Army and Air Force. India is expected to seal the deal with US defence major General Atomics to procure 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones by March. He also said that in the last 40-42 days, 35 drone attacks took place on ships either owned or linked to Israel, mainly in the Red Sea, North Arabian Sea and Central Arabian Sea. Also, the Indian Navy has collected samples of debris from three vessels and is examining them forensically to identify the origin of the attacks.

Admiral Hari Kumar revealed that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the procurement of 31 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, with plans to acquire 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones from General Atomics by March

Concurrently, the counter-drone system developed by the DRDO, which comprises detection, identification and neutralisation of a drone, and which has been demonstrated to the Armed Forces and other internal security agencies, is ready for production. This was part of the 42nd report titled ‘A Review of Working of DRDO’ tabled in Parliament by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently. This technology is suitable for detection, identification and neutralisation of an intruding drone on our land borders also. The solutions can be customised for different challenges.

The MoD report said that the Transfer of Technology (ToT) for above technologies has been handed over to private industries, including BEL, Adani Defence, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Icom, the Ministry said. The technology is capable of countering attacks, soft kill and hard kill of all types of drones, including micro drones, which is being developed in the DRDO. The Army, Navy and the Air Force have already placed 23 orders on BEL for DRDO-developed technology.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a comprehensive counter-drone system, covering detection, identification, and neutralisation, ready for production

The DRDO is now focusing on high endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) while the capability for smaller drones exists with the industry. The DRDO has said that Tapas Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV developed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) application is in the advance stage of developmental trials. Short range armed UAV Archer is being developed for reconnaissance, surveillance and low intensity conflict and developmental flight trials are under progress.

(Left to Right) Tapas and Archer UAVs
Flying Wedge Defense & Aerospace Technologies' FWDA10

In another development, the Bangalore-based, ‘Flying Wedge Defence and Aerospace’ has become the first private company in India to receive a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) type certification for indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology. The official certification was awarded to the company's medium-sized FWDA10, which weighs 26.70 Kg and can reach altitudes of up to 85.31 feet. The DGCA certification is required for any drone, aircraft, or aero-plane to operate in the country.

Drones have civilian uses like firefighting or taking photographs. Drones come in different sizes, with wingspans ranging from a few cm to about 60 meters (200 feet). According to an official of Flying Wedge Defence and Aerospace, “The Company has set itself apart by achieving DGCA-type certification based on truly indigenous technology. This accomplishment highlights the company's commitment to self-reliance, innovation, and a mission to advance India's standing in the global aerospace industry.”