India is gearing up to enhance its aerial surveillance capabilities by acquiring three Bombardier Global 6000 private jets that will be converted into advanced Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) platforms. These aircraft will be equipped with cutting-edge sensor packages developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to bolster the reconnaissance capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Center for Airborne Systems (CABS) laboratory within DRDO will play a pivotal role in developing the sensors for these ISTAR platforms. The sensor package will comprise a Multispectral (EO-IR) Long-Range Oblique Photography (LOROP) sensor, a geospatial intelligence processing and exploitation suite, high data-rate line-of-sight (LOS) and Satcom data links, an onboard mission communications suite, and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities for tasks such as image intelligence, automatic target recognition, change detection, and a Common Operational Picture (COP).
Originally, India had plans to procure these aircraft directly from the US defense contractor Raytheon, which was set to provide the technology for the ISTAR program. However, it now seems that DRDO’s CABS will lead the program, ensuring the development of these advanced surveillance capabilities domestically.
The primary purpose of the ISTAR platform is to intercept enemy signals and provide crucial information to ground commanders, empowering them to make informed decisions regarding counterstrikes. These platforms offer precise targeting data, aiding ground forces in determining the optimal use of weapons and their precise deployment.
The ISTAR-equipped aircraft will maintain a two-way communication link with all reconnaissance assets, including satellites, other aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, and ground reconnaissance vehicles. This seamless coordination ensures real-time intelligence sharing among all relevant resources, thereby enhancing situational awareness and response capabilities.