Wings of Change, The Untold Story of the UAviators

By Lt Col P R Deb, CQFI, Observer Pilot

The sun rose over the horizon on the 15th of September 2021, the day was like any other ordinary day and yet, this rising sun saw history in the making. By the end of the day, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), a potent force multiplier initially inducted with the Regiment of Artillery of Indian Army, would pass into the pages of history, and be taken under the wings of the Army Aviation. This event itself would be extra-ordinary. However, that would not be the end of it. Indian Artillery Officers, who had been crew to this system, and who for years had nurtured the passion for flying these magnificent machines, would also step into the folds of the Army Aviation along with their beloved aircrafts.
Artillery had first inducted RPAS in the year 1999 and from a humble beginning to being state-of-the-art Intelligence surveillance and recce system, Artillery has seen the RPAS maturing over 20 long years. They have been witness to, and instrumental in, the success of many operations. It was due to the very nature of the equipment that these machines and  it’s crew, have silently been the Eye-in-the-sky, in the true spirit of Intelligence and Surveillance gathering.
In Eastern Theatre, the first unmanned flight took off in the year 2009, and today Eastern Command is distinct in terms of possessing the lion’s share of RPA assets and crew. The events unfolding themselves, would be pivotal in changing the future of the un-manned flights. The saga which began in 1998 with training of the first ever RPAS crew at Israel, has been numerous achievements under the aegis of the Regt of Artillery, both in terms of operations and training. From these pioneers, emerged a clan of UAViators, who gave the prime of their youth for establishing RPAS as a potent and dependable asset for many a successful missions. The rich legacy of experience and capability development has been passed down to the next generations.
Long before the current thought process of “joint-ness”, School of Artillery forged the way ahead from the first indigenous RPAS course in 2004, to the first Tri-Services RPAS course in the year 2019 and the All-Arms Courses for Army Aviation  and  the Corps of Intelligence (2019 onwards), to be trained as RPAS crew. The RPA system has matured over the years, and has become a potent surveillance platform, an indispensable tool for successful planning and execution of operations by commanders at all levels.
RPAS have ushered a new dimension to the surveillance edge and have come a long way from the early days and yet there is a lot to be accomplished. We are in midst of a change and the system which has been a way of life and passion for many UAViators in Artillery, would be passed on to Indian Army Aviation with a conviction that what the current crew and their predecessors had toiled hard for, and what was so lovingly, with passion, nurtured, would flourish and emerge as the cutting edge of military operations in future.