Last month’s downing of the US Global Hawk drone by Iran in the Persian Gulf has prompted a rethink within the Indian military establishment, led by the air force, over the acquisition of American-made armed drones on account of their cost and questions over their survivability. According to the military brass, the IAF has internally raised questions about an armed drone surviving in a contested air space like over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) or along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — the disputed de facto border between India and China — with both potential adversaries equipped with top of the line surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems . Pakistan is the only country that has counter-capabilities but will think 100 times before it decides to take a US drone down by a SAM or beyond visual range air-to-air missile,” said a senior military commander on condition of anonymity. According to the military establishment, the cost of a bare drone platform will be to the tune of $100 million and a full complement of weapons like laser-guided bombs or hell-fire missiles will cost another $100 million. When asked to comment on the drone acquisition plans, a senior defence ministry official said, requesting anonymity, that a decision on whether or not to acquire armed drone from the US or any other country will only be taken once the three services approach the government with a proposal.
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