The drones have been deployed at a forward air base in the northern sector.
The squadron operating the Heron Mark2drones is known as the ‘Warden of the North’ and has been carrying out surveillance missions along the borders with both China and Pakistan.The drones are equipped with satellite communication links and are the most advanced drones in the armed forces.
“The Heron Mark 2 is a very capable drone. It is capable of longer endurance and has ‘beyond line of sight’ capability. With this, the entire country can be surveilled from the same place,” commanding officer of the drone squadron, Wing Commander Pankaj Rana, told ANI.
All you need to know about the Heron Mark-2 drones:
- The drones can operate at very long distances for close to 36 hours at a stretch. This ensures that multiple missions can be flown and multiple sectors can be addressed in one mission itself.
- The drone is also capable of providing 24×7 surveillance of targets.
- The standout feature of the Heron Mark-2 is its ability to perform Standoff Capability, gathering intelligence from tens of kilometers away without crossing borders, thanks to its ability to carry larger and improved sensors.
- Modern avionics and engines have ensured that the operational ceilings of the aircraft have been increased.
- It can reach an altitude of 35,000 feet, speed of 150 knots.
- The Heron Mark 2 can also laser illuminate enemy targets from very long ranges to help fighter aircraft destroy them using their long-range weapons.
- The payloads and onboard avionics can operate at sub-zero temperatures and in any weather condition.
- Defence officials said the drones are capable of being equipped with weapons, and work towards weaponising them is in progress.
- The drones can be equipped with air-to-ground missiles, air-to-ground anti-tank weapons, and bombs.
Squadron Leader Arpit Tandon, who is a pilot of the Heron Mark 2 drone, said the new version of the Heron drones has multiple advantages over the previous versions, which started getting inducted into the IAF in the early 2000s.
“The payloads and the onboard avionics of the Heron Mark 2 can operate at sub-zero temperatures and in any weather condition. This is helping the Indian Air Force achieve footprints over any type of terrain,” he said.
Squadron Leader Arpit Tandon, a pilot of the Heron Mark 2 drone on the new version of the drone
The IAF is also working on Project Cheetah, under which around 70 Heron drones will be upgraded with satellite communication links and weaponised to meet the requirements of the armed forces.
The Indian armed forces are also getting 31 Predator drones, which are in the high altitude, long endurance category and are helping the Navy presently to cover large tracts of the Indian Ocean region.
India is getting a version of the drones that can be equipped with weapons and will have sensors for different roles in different terrains.
Fifteen of these drones are to be operated by the Indian Navy, while the other two forces would be getting eight each.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch IAF inducts Mark 2 drones in northern sector to keep eye on China, Pakistan