The Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted the ALS loitering munition.

The ALS-50 is an advanced weapon system with a unique vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, versatility and adaptability, which allow it to engage air defence systems, ground and naval targets.

The system is produced domestically by the Mumbai-based Tata Group. The ALS-50’s induction demonstrates India supporting its domestic defense industry.

The Indian armed forces seek to benefit from the country’s sophisticated indigenous technologies. The move will enhance the IAF’s operational capabilities by enabling it to conduct swift precision strikes from any terrain, says GlobalData, a leading data analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest report, “The Global Military UAV Market 2023–33”, reveals India’s loitering munition segment is valued at $397m in 2023 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% to reach a value of $568.5m by 2033.

The development and procurement of next-generation loitering munitions constitute a key component of the modernisation drive undertaken by the IAF.

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With the increase in complexities and threat levels on the battlefield, the induction of loitering munitions is aimed at improving the effectiveness of the military’s engagement during sensitive operations.

India’s defence industrial base and modernisation

The Asia-Pacific is projected to lead investment in uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), garnering a share of 34% of the total global military UAV market over 2022–32. Countries such as China and India are major contributors to investment in this region.

GlobalData says that India’s defence industry is sophisticated enough to integrate technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and swarm technology to enable a higher level of autonomy in UAV operations.

“The procurement of ALS-50 demonstrates India’s dedication to military modernisation by attaining self-reliance in defence procurement. It will help to strengthen India’s air power and deter aggression from its adversaries,” Harpreet Sidhu, Aerospace Analyst at GlobalData, comments.

UAVs at the moment

The Russia-Ukraine war, have demonstrated the evolving role of loitering munition in modern warfare, with countries procuring them in significant numbers for augmenting the identification and destruction of potential threats.

According to the UK Ministry of Defence’s updates on the conflict in eastern Europe, Russia has launched more than 300 Iranian Shahed UAVs against Ukraine during May alone. Ukraine has neutralised approximately 90% of them, which leaves the UAV market a lot of room for development against the various types of air defence systems we currently see in Ukraine.

The geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region are driving countries like Taiwan, Japan, India, and Australia to invest in acquiring loitering munitions to assert their technological dominance over their adversaries.