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UK govt to spend $5.7 bn on military drones

Britain is already supplying Ukraine with drones. It said it would spend 200 million pounds on uncrewed systems out of a total 2.5 billion pound support package, and has already donated 4,000 drones to Ukraine…reports Asian Lite News

Britain will spend 4.5 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) to provide its armed forces with drones over the next decade after the Ukraine war showed the importance of uncrewed systems in conflict, the government said on Thursday.

Drone warfare has opened up as a key battlefront two years into Russia’s war with Ukraine and both sides are striving for the upper hand in technology.

Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are cheap to produce and can surveil enemy movements and drop ordnance with pinpoint accuracy.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the new investment would speed up delivery of drones to its army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, for use in intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, strike and logistics.

“The conflict in Ukraine has been an incubator for new ways of war and we need to learn and implement those hard-fought lessons,” defence procurement minister James Cartlidge said in a statement.

“Ultimately, this is about learning the lessons from the Ukrainian frontline to procure drones at scale for the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.”

Britain is already supplying Ukraine with drones. It said it would spend 200 million pounds on uncrewed systems out of a total 2.5 billion pound support package, and has already donated 4,000 drones to Ukraine.

Drones already in use by British forces include the Evolve Dynamics Sky Mantis, which weighs 7.7 kg, and the Reaper MQ-9A which is used by the RAF for surveillance and attack missions.

Of the £2.5 billion pounds to be spent on supporting Ukraine this coming financial year, more than £200 million will go towards supplying Ukraine with uncrewed systems. As the Defence Secretary announced last week, the UK will include work to scale up the Drone Capability Coalition’s provision of ‘first-person view’ (FPV) drones to Ukraine. This will help to scale the UK’s domestic drone industry across manufacturing and software development whilst giving Ukraine cutting-edge, battle-tested capabilities to defend their citizens and target the invading Russian forces.

Working with international partners and leading uncrewed systems designers, the UK’s ambition to be a world-leader in uncrewed systems will enable exports in a rapidly growing global market and create onshore investment opportunities, supporting UK jobs and backing the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy.

Commander of UK Strategic Command, General Jim Hockenhull said, “This strategy, backed by significant investment, offers the opportunity to transform our approach to the acquisition, integration, and exploitation of uncrewed systems. The partnership with industry will be vital to ensure we harness innovation and generate world-leading capability. Integrating advanced uncrewed systems into our suite of capabilities will protect the force, deter our adversaries and, when necessary, help us to fight and win.”

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Israel Strikes Back After Eilat School Drone Attack

The military said in the statement that “the Syrian regime is completely responsible for all terrorist activity that takes place on its soil”…reports Asian Lite News

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday said that it conducted an airstrike in Syria in retaliation to a drone attack fired from the neighbouring country towards a school in the southern Israeli city of Eilat.

In a statement, the military said that it identified the location in Syria from where the drone attack was carried out in Eliat on Thursday.

Without specifying, the IDF also said that it “attacked the organization that launched it (drone attack) in response”.

It also held the government in Damascus responsible for any attack from the Syrian soil.

The military said in the statement that “the Syrian regime is completely responsible for all terrorist activity that takes place on its soil”.

“The IDF will respond forcefully to any attempt to attack Israel,” it added.

Earlier on Friday, the IDF had posted on X that a “UAV hit a civilian building in the city of Eilat”.

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US-Turkey Relations Tense After Drone Shootdown

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler to discuss the incident…reports Asian Lite News

The US military shot down an armed Turkish drone as it came in proximity to American forces in Syria, the Department of Defense said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said during a press briefing that commanders assessed that on Thursday a Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew “less than a half kilometer from US forces” based in Syria, reports Xinhua news agency.

US. F-16 fighters subsequently shot down the UAV “in self-defense” as the drone was deemed “a potential threat”, Ryder said, adding that the Pentagon had “no indication that Türkiye was intentionally targeting US forces”.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler to discuss the incident.

According to a readout of the phone call provided by Ryder, Austin urged his Turkish counterpart to commit to “de-escalation in northern Syria,” stressing “the importance of maintaining strict adherence to de-confliction protocols and communication through established military-to-military channels”.

“The Secretary acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and affirmed his commitment to close coordination between the US and Turkey to prevent any risk to US forces,” the readout said.

The incident marked a rare use of force by the US against one of its allies within the NATO.

Adding to the controversy of the shootdown is the fact that Washington not only counts on Ankara to help defeat the Islamic State terrorist group in the Middle East but also relies on Türkiye’s approval to bring Sweden into NATO in the wake of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Turkish air force carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Kurdish militia positions in northern and eastern Syria on Thursday, hitting 24 targets and causing 15 casualties among the Kurdish fighters.

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Kim receives drones as gifts from Russia

Kim said the Russian military and its people will inherit the “shining tradition of victory” and demonstrate their reputation on the front line of the “military operation”…reports Asian Lite News

As North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un concluded his visit to Russia on Sunday, the standout moment of his trip was when he received five explosive drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest as gifts from a regional governor on his Moscow visit, according to Al Jazeera.

In Vladivostok on Saturday, he met with the Russian Defence minister and viewed cutting-edge armaments, including a hypersonic missile system.

Citing Russian state news agency, TASS, Al Jazeera reported that the “leader of the DPRK received five kamikaze drones and a ‘Geran-25’ reconnaissance drone with vertical takeoff.”

The governor of the Primorye area, which shares a border with China and North Korea, was reportedly said to have “offered Kim Jong Un a set of bulletproof protection” and “special clothing not detectable by thermal cameras.”

According to state-run media in Russia, Kim left the Russian Far East on Sunday by boarding an armoured train in the city of Artyom, which lies north of the port of Vladivostok, and beginning the protracted journey home.

Kim was seen leaving in a video to the Russian and North Korean anthems, according to Al Jazeera. Notably, Kim spent six days in Russia and held headline-grabbing talks with President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny spaceport.

Notably, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Tuesday for a closely watched summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia marks his first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic as during the pandemic, North Korea’s borders were sealed.

Issuing support to Moscow in the ongoing war in Ukraine, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told President Vladimir Putin that Russia will emerge victorious in the fight to “punish the evil forces”, adding that he would “always be standing with Russia”, according to CNN.

He praised Russia for having “stood up against the hegemonic forces” to defend its sovereignty and security – a veiled reference to the US and the West – and said he has expressed “the full and unconditional support to all that Russia does in response.”

Kim said the Russian military and its people will inherit the “shining tradition of victory” and demonstrate their reputation on the front line of the “military operation”.

North Korea’s Kim was in Russia’s Far East as Putin seeks to strengthen ties in the midst of Russia’s protracted conflict in Ukraine, in addition to advancing his nation’s military modernisation.

Following their first face-to-face summit in four years, Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted an invitation from Kim Jong Un to visit North Korea, according to Al Jazeera.

After more than four hours of discussions and a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome space centre, he extended the offer to Putin at “a convenient time” at a reception to mark the end of the day.

“Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship,” Al Jazeera reported North Korean state news agency KCNA as saying on Thursday. (ANI)

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Russian Drone Strike Hits Port Facilities on River Danube in Ukraine

Although Ukraine claimed that Russian drones had landed on Romanian territory, the NATO member state denied it…reports Asian Lite News

An overnight Russian drone strike has hit port facilities on the River Danube in Ukraine’s Izmail area, an official confirmed on Wednesday.

Oleh Kiper, Governor of the surrounding Odesa region, said the attack led to the damage of port and agricultural infrastructure, reports the BBC.

There has been no official comment from Russia on the drone strike.

Earlier this week, the Izmail region, located from across the river from Romania, had come under another Russian drone attack.

Although Ukraine claimed that Russian drones had landed on Romanian territory, the NATO member state denied it.

Russia has been hitting Ukraine’s port facilities along the Danube for over a month, trying to prevent Kiev from using the river to export its grain, the BBC reported.

Also on Tuesday night, the Ukrainian capital Kiev came under missile attack, the authorities said, but there were no casualties or damage.

All the Russian missiles were destroyed by air defences, a Ukrainian defence official said.

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Drone Attack Hits Pskov Airport, Damaging Transport Aircraft

Ukraine launched drone attacks on targets in seven Russian regions overnight…reports Asian Lite News

Ukraine has said that four Il-76 transport aircraft were destroyed during an overnight drone attack at Pskov airport in western Russia.

“Four Il-76 have been destroyed on Wednesday and cannot be restored. A few more (aircraft) units were damaged,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency.

He did not specify whether Ukraine was responsible for the attack, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian media reported that Il-76 transport aircraft were damaged during a drone attack at Pskov airport, citing the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Pskov Region Governor Mikhail Vedernikov said that there were no victims according to preliminary information, and the scale of the destruction was being specified.

According to the airport’s website, Russia’s 334th Military Transport Aviation Regiment armed with II-76 aircraft was stationed at the airport by the time of the drone attack.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a weekly briefing on Wednesday that Ukraine would not have been able to hit targets deep inside the Russian territory without satellite data obtained from the West.

Zakharova warned that Ukraine’s actions will not be left unpunished.

Commenting on Kiev’s recent drone attacks, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Russian military experts were investigating the launch routes of the drones to prevent such situations in the future and Moscow will take all necessary measures.

Ukraine launched drone attacks on targets in seven Russian regions overnight.

Pskov is a city in western Russia, located 20 km east of the Estonian border.

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Russian drone strikes damages port infrastructure in Odesa

As of 5:30 am local time, there were no reports of casualties, according to Kiper, though he added that the military command will provide the final data and results of combat work…reports Asian Lite News

The port and industrial infrastructure of the Odesa region were damaged after Kyiv met with a barrage of drone attacks in the early hours of Wednesday, CNN reported citing the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration, Oleh Kiper.

This comes after both Russia and Ukraine accused each other of carrying cross-border attacks on Tuesday. “At night, the enemy directed attack UAVs to the south of the Odesa region. As a result of the attack, fires broke out at the facilities of the port and industrial infrastructure of the region, and a grain elevator was damaged. All response teams are at the scene,” Kiper posted on Telegram.

As of 5:30 am local time, there were no reports of casualties, according to Kiper, though he added that the military command will provide the final data and results of combat work.

Meanwhile, the strikes come soon after Ukraine shot down 10 drones over Kyiv early Wednesday, CNN reported.

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration, confirmed about shooting down 10 drones over Kyiv, in a Telegram post early Wednesday.

Initial information indicates that Russian forces used Shahed barrage munitions in the barrage of attacks, Popko said.

“Drone groups approached Kyiv simultaneously from several directions. However, the air defence forces detected and destroyed all aerial targets – over 10 UAVs – in a timely manner,” CNN quoted Popko as saying.

He said debris from the drones has fallen in the districts of Solomianskyi, Holosiivskyi, and Sviatoshynskyi in Kyiv and that some non-residential buildings and road surfaces were damaged, but no serious damage or fires.

Kiper had also warned of possible drone attacks on the Odesa region, and asked the people to take shelter while its air defenses were at work, CNN reported citing a Telegram post.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia alleged that Ukraine again attempted a drone strike in Moscow targeting the “exact same building” that was hit on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Kyiv accused Russia of shelling a medical facility in the southern port city of Kherson, killing a doctor and wounding a nurse.

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have suggested that these attacks are meant to shatter any remaining sense of calm in the Russian capital.

“Moscow is rapidly getting used to a full-fledged war,” CNN quoted Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, as saying,

Last month, Russian missiles badly damaged a historic Orthodox cathedral in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa. The Odesa strikes killed at least one person and injured several others, CNN reported citing Ukrainian officials. The attacks also destroyed other historic buildings, Ukraine’s culture ministry said. (ANI)

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Centre selects 14 firms under Drone PLI scheme

“The final list of PLI beneficiaries is expected to be released by June 30, 2022 after detailed scrutiny of their financial results and other specified documents.”…reports Asian Lite News

The Central government has provisionally selected 14 firms under the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for drone and drone components.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released the first provisional list of 14 beneficiaries under the scheme.

Accordingly, these 14 beneficiaries include five drone manufacturers and nine drone component manufacturers.

Earlier, the ministry had invited applications from eligible manufacturers on March 10, 2022 and the last date for submission was March 31, 2022.

“The list of beneficiaries is likely to be expanded further since some more manufacturers are likely to exceed the eligibility criteria for the full financial year 2021-22,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The final list of PLI beneficiaries is expected to be released by June 30, 2022 after detailed scrutiny of their financial results and other specified documents.”

Notably, the eligibility criteria for the PLI scheme for drones and drone components includes an annual sales turnover of Rs 2 crore for drone companies and Rs 50 lakh for drone components manufacturers; and value addition of over 40 per cent of sales turnover.

The PLI scheme for drones and drone components was notified on September 30, 2021.

Under the scheme, a total incentive of Rs 120 crore is spread over three financial years which is nearly double the combined turnover of all domestic drone manufacturers in FY 2020-21.

The PLI rate is 20 per cent of the value addition which is one of the highest among other PLI schemes.

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‘Over 470 Ukrainian drones destroyed during special ops’

Eighteen people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in the past four days in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Zelensky said…reports Asian Lite News

The Russian forces have eliminated more than 470 Ukrainian drones since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

“In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, the following have been destroyed: 136 aircraft, 471 unmanned aerial vehicles, 249 anti-aircraft missile systems, 2,308 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 254 multiple launch rocket systems, 998 field artillery guns and mortars, and 2,171 special military vehicles,” Konashenkov said on Sunday.

He added that Russian rocket forces and artillery have hit four Ukrainian command posts, four artillery batteries, two fuel depots and more than 100 other Ukrainian targets.

Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, after the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) appealed for help in defending themselves against Ukrainian provocations. Russia said that the aim of its special operation is to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine and that only military infrastructure is being targeted.

Zelensky lashed out at Russia

With the war having entered the 54th day, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Russia for “deliberate terror against ordinary civilians” as Moscow continued shelling in the northeastern cities and escalated aggression in the besieged city of Mariupol. He also accused the Russian troops in southern Ukraine of carrying out torture and kidnappings.

“This is nothing but deliberate terror: mortars, artillery against ordinary residential quarters… against ordinary civilians,” Zelensky said late in his nightly address, according to multiple reports. “Torture chambers are built there. They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities,” he added.

Eighteen people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in the past four days in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Zelensky said.

The Kremlin has denied targeting civilians and accused Ukraine of “staging the evidence of atrocities in a bid to undermine peace talks”.

Moscow has said its troops had cleared the urban area of Mariupol and only a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters remained inside a steelworks in the besieged southern port. Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov in southeastern Ukraine, has seen the worst fighting of the seven-week-long war.

Russia also issued an ultimatum to Ukraine, giving its troops in Mariupol a deadline to surrender, which was ultimately rejected by Ukraine as it vowed to ‘fight till the end’.

On the streets of Mariupol, small groups of bodies were lined up under colourful blankets, surrounded by shredded trees and scorched buildings, Reuters reported.

Zelensky told Ukrainian media on Saturday that the continuing siege of Mariupol could ruin attempts to negotiate an end to the war. “The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol — what they are doing now — can put an end to any format of negotiations,” he was quoted as saying by news agency AP.

After failing to overcome Ukrainian resistance in the north, the Russian military has refocused its ground offensive on Donbas, while launching long-distance strikes at targets elsewhere, including the capital, Kyiv.

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Govt focus on drone technology to boost agritech startups

It is estimated that there are about 600-700 agritech startups in India (IT industry’s apex body Nasscom last reported 450 in India two years ago) operating at different levels of agri-value chains…reports Asian Lite News

Not only for creating light shows as seen during the Beating Retreat ceremony, the government now focuses on drone technology to empower agritech startups, along with creating a skilled workforce for that via various Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).

In her Union Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that startups will be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS).

“In select ITIs, in all states, the required courses for skilling will be started,” she added.

Drone technology is an integral part of several agri-tech startups as these are used for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients.

Filling the skill gap in this area is a revolutionary step for an agriculture-dominated country like ours, experts say.

It is estimated that there are about 600-700 agritech startups in India (IT industry’s apex body Nasscom last reported 450 in India two years ago) operating at different levels of agri-value chains.

Sushma Paul Berlia, Chairperson, National Council on Ease of Doing Business at Assocham, said that “virtual education as a tool towards filling the gap took place due to the pandemic in the last two years” and it is heartening to ensure minimum quality education is available to all – whether through skilling portals or “skilling courses through various ITIs”.

ITIs starting skilling courses is welcome for low-end skills.

“Polytechnics are the right place to start offering skill courses especially as skills of tomorrow are of a higher order. Polytechnics should also be allowed to offer advanced skill programmes,” said Chocko Valliappa, Vice Chairman, Sona Group of Education institutions.

Vipul Singh, Founder and CEO, Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS), said that the budget duly recognises the key role drone technology is playing in solving some really tough problems for sectors like land records, infrastructure, mining, disaster management, and agriculture.

“Furthermore, the announcement of Drone Rules 2021, the PLI scheme for the drone industry, and subsidies for drones to be used for agriculture applications have provided a fillip to the sector,” he said.

With the use of use of drones for land surveys and crop assessments, the government “seeks to leverage technology for enabling the next phase of sustainable socio-economic development of the nation”, said Nitin Bansal, MD, India Head-Networks, Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson.

The budget has covered multiple avenues for drone industry to rise, especially “promoting agricultural drones and NABARD fund to support startups will result in ensuring that the drone industry reach a new milestone”, said Swapnik Jakkampudi, Co-Founder, Skye Air Mobility, a drone delivery tech firm.

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