Raytheon ISTAR platform
An ISTAR aircraft uses artificial intelligence, integrated onboard sensors and advanced processing rapidly and at long range to provide critical information on enemy movements
India is working on the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance (ISTAR) program with the United States under the DTTI initiative, Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) newly appointed chief, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari, said at a presser today (5 October), ahead of the Air Force Day.
An ISTAR aircraft uses artificial intelligence, integrated onboard sensors and advanced processing rapidly and at long range to provide critical information on enemy movements, dispositions and communications in real time, equipping commanders with a clear, multi-faceted picture of the changes in the battlefield to take the right decisions.
The platform can help track mobile ground targets, map natural disaster areas, monitor vessels to enforce maritime embargoes and keep an eye on activities near borders and littoral areas.
It can also provide battlefield management and command-and-control processing capability, helping in planning and executing missions.
India’s ISTAR will use multiple intelligence or multi-INT, technology, meaning data from multiple sensors across the spectrum will be combined to draw a complete picture of the situation on the battlefield. Such a system also gives significantly more coverage — double in some cases — than a radar-only system.
The DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Systems has been working on the sensors package required for the development of the platform. The team that worked on the Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft has been split into two, with one part working on the ISTAR program.
In the past, reports have said that the US will supply India with one ISTAR aircraft while the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will develop the sensors package and other critical technologies for an additional four aircraft of the type. A model of the proposed Indian aircraft was displayed at Aero India 2021.
The Indian ISTAR aircraft is likely to be based on the Global Express business jet platform built by Canadian giant Bombardier.
The program has faced delay due to a turf war between the IAF and the DRDO over the testing of the platform. Although this issue appears to have been resolved by the government, there has been very little movement in the ISTAR program over the last few years.