Indigenous Loitering Munitions: A variety of loitering weapons, or "suicide drones," that may be deployed to precisely take out high-value targets, have being sought after by the Indian Armed Forces. India may have been on par with China in UAVs and loitering munitions by now if the country had opened up the defense industry to the private sector in the early 2000s. Given that they would also be utilized in swarms in future conflicts, the Armed Forces have a significant need for a variety of lingering bombs.
Economic Explosives Ltd, in collaboration with the Bengaluru-based start-up ZMotion Autonomous Systems Pvt Ltd, successfully tested three different types of locally designed and developed loitering bombs in Ladakh from March 21 to 23, 2022, at a high altitude.
All three loitering munitions met their endurance goals after taking off from high altitude locations during the tests, which were conducted at heights of more than 15,000 feet. The three loitering weapons—two fixed-wing versions and a hexacopter—should be at least 40% less expensive than imports from Poland and Israel.
The Army Design Bureau (ADB) organized the aforementioned tests to evaluate the effectiveness and safety requirements of these technologies. These man-portable weapons can launch with a 4 kg warhead, fly for an hour, and accurately home in on ground-based targets.
Such weapons can cause disproportionate damage to conventional targets like ground-based bunkers, command centers, artillery, and armored formations and are significantly more affordable to create than armed drones.
In parallel, news sources stated that the Indian Army had purchased 100 WARMATE Micro Loitering Munitions for the Special Forces of the Army from Poland. These weapons, which have a range of 30 km, a height of 300 meters, and a payload of 5.7 kg (high explosive and thermobaric), can be employed efficiently against hostile soldiers and lightly armored vehicles.
A different news story from June 27, 2022, stated that the Polish company WB Group had finished delivering the Indian Army with about 120 WARMATE 3.0 fixed-wing loitering weapons. According to the article, these are meant to arm artillery units with the tools they need to engage stationary and moving targets in plains, deserts, semi-deserts, hilly terrain, and high-altitude regions.
According to the media source, the purchase of ten sets includes ten launchers, thirty forward observation stations, and one hundred and twenty loitering munitions, all of which are covered by a five-year comprehensive maintenance contract.
WARMATE Micro Loitering Munitions
More encouraging news concerning indigenous loitering munitions is now available with the development of the ALS 50 by a team of young engineers from TATA Advanced Systems Limited (TASL). The ALS-50 successfully tested its striking capability on September 22, 2022 at the Pokhran firing ranges. Sources claim that during tests, the ALS-50's explosive warhead precisely hit the ground target. This indigenous loitering bombs can be used in all kinds of operational environments, especially in places with challenging terrain and high altitudes.
An autonomous system called the ALS-50 is intended for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). Due to its VTOL capacity, the device can maneuver in tight spaces like vessel decks, entrenched mountain positions, small jungle clearings, and narrow valleys.
The ALS-50, which can take off like a quadcopter and switch to fixed wing mode while in flight for long distance trips, also showed during tests in Ladakh earlier this year that it could function from high altitude locations. Accurate target identification and homing are made possible by the autonomous targeting system.
According to the needs of the armed forces, the system can potentially be built up to boost range and payload capability. Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and swarming capabilities may also be included in future development.
In recent years, loitering weapons have transformed the battlefield, particularly in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In the future, it is probable that there will be an increasing number of them in the air.
A variety of loitering weapons, or "suicide drones," that may be deployed to precisely destroy expensive targets including command centers, missile launchers, and enemy armor have been sought after by the Indian Armed Forces. Looking back, it is possible to conclude that India would have been on par with China in unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and loitering munitions by now if the defense sector had been opened to the private sector in the early 2000s.
The battlefield has changed recently as a result of hovering weapons, particularly in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It is likely that there will be a rise in their airborne population in the future. The Indian Armed Forces have been looking for a range of loitering weapons, or "suicide drones," that may be used to accurately strike pricey targets like as command centers, missile launchers, and enemy armor.
If the defense industry had been opened to the private sector in the early 2000s, India may currently have unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and loitering munitions on par with China, according to historical data.
The aforementioned advancements in loitering munitions are encouraging, and it is said that the ALS-50 will soon be incorporated into the Armed Forces. However, given that they would also be utilized in swarms in future battles, the Armed Forces have a significant need for a variety of lingering bombs. Therefore, for quicker induction, mass production and little red tape are required.