The Indian Air Force (IAF) has recently initiated a significant endeavor in partnership with the indigenous (Private) defense production industry. This ambitious project is centered around the design, development, and manufacturing of High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS). The case, aptly named “Indigenous Design, Development, and Manufacturing of High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) through Private Defense Production Industry,” reflects the IAF’s commitment to enhancing its capabilities in aerial surveillance and data gathering. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of this project, highlighting its significance and objectives.

The Necessity for Aerial Surveillance

Surveillance over a vast area is a critical requirement for long-term weapons planning, assessing target areas, and providing coverage for one’s own forces, whether in offensive or defensive postures. Currently, there exists no technology capable of achieving sustained surveillance over an extended period effectively. However, military satellites can provide high cost and low endurance solution of discrete nature. Recognizing this need, the IAF has turned to High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS) as a potential solution.

High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS)

A High Altitude Pseudo Satellite is a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system designed to operate at high altitudes, remaining above the troposphere for extended durations. These sophisticated platforms are equipped with a suite of sensors and instruments suited for various missions. In the context of the IAF’s objectives, HAPS would be instrumental in maintaining aerial surveillance over strategic areas, aiding in target identification, change detection, and data collection.

These systems will remain in air for months and will provide the ISR capabilities for extended period of time with negligible interruptions. These systems will be comparatively low cost and low maintenance systems.

Initially New Space Research and HAL came up with this solution. The system was part of Combat Air Team System (CATS). It was called CATS Infinity, However in this new case the push from the Indian airforce is to acquire it form a private industrial partner. Thus, question remains if CATS will be acquired or a new system will be acquired.

There are numerous commercial solution available in the world today and if a private industrial partner can manage to increase indigenous content by 50% on any of these then they have equal chance as CATS infinity for this requirement.

The Proposal

The IAF’s proposal entails partnering with the indigenous defense production industry to embark on the design, development, and manufacture of High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS). This initiative falls under the Make-I (Government Funded) procedure, as outlined in Chapter III of the Defense Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. The objective is clear: to create a homegrown solution that aligns with the nation’s strategic interests.

Seeking Private Industry Participation

To achieve this goal, the IAF is actively seeking participation from private defense companies in India. Interested vendors are encouraged to submit their proposals by September 30, 2023. In line with the nation’s “Make in India” initiative, the IAF is keen on ensuring that the Pseudo Satellite project has a minimum of 50% indigenous content, further promoting self-reliance in defense technology.

Key Parameters for High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS)

To meet the IAF’s requirements effectively, the High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) must adhere to specific parameters, including:

(a) Long-Range Aerial Surveillance: The HAPS should have the capability to conduct aerial surveillance of a large area for up to three months, providing sustained coverage and data collection.

(b) Target Identification: It should possess the ability to identify and track potential targets, facilitate change detection, and integrate various onboard sensors for Electro-Optical (EO), Electronic Support Measures (ESM), communication, and data link operations.

(c) Satellite Equivalent Tasking: The HAPS should be capable of undertaking tasks typically reserved for satellites, enabling continuous observation beyond borders and bridging gaps in surveillance coverage due to satellite limitations.

(d) Long-Term Sustained Surveillance: The HAPS should be designed to perform sustained surveillance over a designated area for extended periods, measured in months rather than days or weeks.

(e) High Altitude Operation: Crucially, the HAPS should have the capability to operate above the troposphere, ensuring its endurance and effectiveness in high-altitude environments.

Overall, the Indian Air Force’s pursuit of indigenous High Altitude Pseudo Satellites represents a significant step towards enhancing India’s defense capabilities. By partnering with the private defense production industry and adhering to stringent parameters, the IAF is poised to develop a cutting-edge solution for long-term aerial surveillance and data gathering. This initiative not only reinforces self-reliance in defense technology but also underlines India’s commitment to securing its strategic interests through innovative and homegrown solutions. As the IAF invites proposals from interested vendors, the nation eagerly anticipates the future of indigenous HAPS technology, which will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in safeguarding India’s national security.

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