New Delhi: To counter the increasing Sino-Indian tension along the border, there are reports that India has begun testing of the Polish-manufactured Warmate drone (micro loitering munitions) in the strategic Ladakh region. Warmate – combat unmanned aerial vehicle (CUAV) is a multi-role system performing multiple tasks depending on a type of the head installed.
This drone, also utilised by Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, is designed for targeting small troop detachments and lightly armoured bunkers. The move underscores India’s efforts to bolster its drone capabilities, both for surveillance and attack purposes, following a surprise confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh in May 2020.
Despite its tactical advantages, the Warmate drone has faced numerous challenges. According to reports from Russian Telegram groups, it has been shot down numerous times and even captured for reverse engineering. Furthermore, an Iranian kamikaze drone unveiled recently, bears a striking resemblance to the Warmate.
Tensions in Ladakh have resurged, especially after the discovery of tunnels in the Aksai Chin mountains in satellite images. These tunnels are believed to house ammunition and command and control centres for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), providing a considerable strategic advantage due to their resilience against enemy artillery or missile strikes.
While the Warmate may only inflict minor damage on such highly fortified facilities, its testing highlights India’s commitment to enhancing its drone capabilities for both surveillance and offensive operations. China, in contrast, boasts a more extensive inventory of various UAVs, ranging from singular to swarm designs, serving purposes from surveillance to logistical supply transport.
The Warmate operates within a line-of-sight range of 30 kilometres, achieving speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour, powered by an electric motor. It boasts a wingspan of 1.6 meters, a fuselage length of 1.1 meters, and a maximum take-off weight of 5.7 kilograms. Operating at altitudes ranging from 150 to 300 meters above sea level, it supports various warhead types, including High Explosive and Thermobaric. The drone is semi-autonomous, loitering around a designated target area. Integrated control modules and surveillance subsystems empower operators to maintain control throughout an attack.
Kamikaze drones like the Warmate also serve as basic Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, capable of aborting attacks and returning to operators. These drones offer valuable tactical insights, and in Ukraine, they work alongside ISR drones to confirm strikes’ impact, assess damage, and inform decisions about follow-up actions.