17:15 GMT19 October 2020
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    The timing of the first flight of India's military drone RUSTOM-II, now rechristened TAPAS 201, is significant. Visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and soon-to-arrive US defense secretary Ash Carter, are both eyeing India's military drone market of over 5,000 drones in next 10 years.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — In what could be a setback to the US and Israel, India has successfully carried out the first flight of its indigenously developed TAPAS 201, a two-ton, multi-mission UAV (Drone) developed by India's defense research companies.

    TAPAS 201 will be tasked with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the Indian Armed Forces with an endurance of 24 hours. Sources told Sputnik that its maiden 10-minute test flight accomplished the objective of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing. TAPAS 201 will undertake similar flights in the coming days as well.

    "It can carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro-Optic, Long Range Electro-Optic, Synthetic Aperture Radar, Electronic Intelligence, Communication Intelligence and Situational Awareness Payloads to perform missions during day and night," claims its designer, the Defense Research and Development Organization.

    Indian Government companies are teaming up with the private industry to develop sub-systems such as airframe, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems.

    "It is an extremely important step towards achieving self-reliance in design and development of defense equipment. Considering its capabilities, TAPAS 201, will provide teeth to the Indian armed forces," says Amit Cowshish, former financial advisor to India's defense ministry.

    The TAPAS 201 will be tested for design parameters before being sent for User Validation Trials. DRDO officials would like to put TAPAS 201 in the category of Predator drones of US and the Israeli Heron drones. The first order of TAPAS 201 is expected to be around 80 pieces.

    "DRDO's 'Rustam' UAV first flight is a great milestone indeed. It is meant to replace the Israeli ‘Heron’ in all three Armed Forces one day. The future of aviation is unmanned. Indian Air Force uses them for laser guidance, battle damage assessment in addition to ISR functions," says Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retired).

    Indian armed forces plan to induct over 5,000 drones with various capacities over the next ten years. The US is expecting some forward movement for its armed Predator during Defense Secretary Ash Carter visit to India in December.


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