Wednesday, April 21, 2021

India’s Most Secretive ‘Stealth Drone’ Project Uncovered; Aims To Counter Dassault, Boeing & Northrop UCAVs

One of India’s most ambitious aerospace projects known as the “Ghatak” translating to Lethal, has made a new surprise debut in a video released by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Kanpur) – the institution which has been working on the project for quite some time.   

The SWiFT/Ghatak UCAV scale model in one of the laboratories of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. (Screenshot from IIT-Kanpur’s YouTube video)

The DRDO’s “Ghatak”, or what was previously known as “AURA”, is probably the most secretive aircraft project of the Indian government, which is aimed to develop an unmanned stealth deep penetration strike bomber for the Indian Armed Forces (expectedly the IAF).

The design is based on the flying wing concept, which is a tailless and undefined fuselage concept.

The new appearance made was during a lecture on UAV aerodynamics shared about two weeks ago, and the craft is known as SWiFT (Stealth Wing Flying Testbed) and resembles the Ghatak UAV physically.

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According to the sources, the image is the first appearance of Ghatak scaled-downed prototype with its undercarriage and landing gear.

In the video, more than one model of the flying wing SWiFT can be seen, and the institution is reportedly studying the viability of achieving lower radar cross-section and conducting wind-tunnel tests, making a crucial base for future Indian aircraft projects in the aviation sector.

The technologies associated with the project are expected to be 100% indigenously developed, however, controversies still prevail over the powerplant. In 2018, it was reported that the early prototypes would be powered by the Russian NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine.

It is expected that by the time Ghatak would be ready to fly, India would have successfully developed its own aircraft engine “Kaveri” and technologies associated with it. The engine will be developed in collaboration with French company Safran, which also came as an offset clause with the Rafale deal.

Other than IIT Kanpur, IIT-Bombay has also collaborated for the design and testing of the serpentine air intake duct (also known as S-duct inlet) for the engine.

The Ghatak is now a fully funded and sanctioned national defence project, and will likely see large-scale private sector participation going forward, given its many linkages with India’s AMCA fifth-generation stealth fighter program, told LiveFist. It also revealed the details of the connection between IIT Kanpur and the Ghatak project back in 2018.

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Currently, various nations are working on the development of such aircraft with comparable roles of stealth bombing and reconnaissance, including the Russian Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik, which made its maiden flight in August 2019.

Similar projects also include the British BAE Systems Taranis, German/Spanish EADS Barracuda, American Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47B, French Dassault nEUROn, Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 and the Russian Mikoyan Skat.

Penned By Ayush Jain. Inputs from LiveFist

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