India will showcase its future warfare program with the unveiling of stealth bomber drone ‘Ghatak’ (also called Swift) at Aero India 2021 that kicks off in Bengaluru on Wednesday (February 3).
In addition, mock-ups of the Navy’s twin-engine deck-based fighter, LCA Mk-2, and the first-ever ‘semi stealth’ drone ‘Warrior’ will be on display.
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These are part of the CATS (Combat Air Teaming System) program, designed to take India’s air power to the next level.
The ‘Warrior’ drone is similar in concept to Boeing’s ‘Loyal Wingman’ airpower teaming system (ATS) and would fly alongside future Indian Air Force aircraft providing additional firepower and protection to the assets, including target acquisition, weapons release, and even defend the main ship using various air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions.
This would help the IAF aircraft, which could be either Tejas or AMCA, to penetrate deep into contested airspace and perform suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions with greater precision and effectiveness.
The ‘Warrior’ drone’s mock-up reveals a trapezoidal fuselage with a chined engine, V-tail, and S-shaped air intake, based heavily towards the Russian GROM UAV and the American XQ-58 Valkyrie. However, actual details have not been made public yet.
The mock-up also showed the DRDO’s SAAW (Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon) in the internal weapons bay of the drone, hinting at its stealth nature, which naturally cannot be confirmed yet.
The Warrior drone is expected to conduct its maiden flight within three years, and is funded by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). NDTV quoted a source as saying that the UAV is attached with the Tejas project. “Multiple Warriors will be commanded by a single Tejas,” he mentioned.
The program seems to be in a similar line as Boeing’s Loyal Wingman is an unmanned aircraft that uses artificial intelligence (AI) as the foundation for the Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
Interestingly, the ‘Warrior’ drone is just one facet of the CATS system. Along with the UAV, HAL also revealed a series of new designs including that of ‘Hunter’ cruise missile capable of hitting targets more than 200 kilometers away and a swarm drone system called ALFA-S, designed to home in on multiple targets using artificial intelligence based on target coordinates given via an onboard computer, and possibly conducting kamikaze strikes.
Being designed with HAL by Newspace Research and Technologies, a Bengaluru-based start-up, the ALFA-S is said to be a unique drone. The drones are housed on a unique carrier, mounted on a Jaguar fighter bomber. The carrier separates from the Jaguar, glides for approximately 100-plus kilometers before releasing the propeller-powered swarm drones which engage their targets.
The ALFA-S drones are programmed with algorithms to seek and destroy enemy surface to air missiles, aircraft on the ground, and other ground targets. The unique nature of the platform gives it an export potential for friendly nations, according to NDTV.
The Aero India event will be held from February 3 to 5, at Yelahanka Air Force base at Bengaluru. The event would also witness the majestic American B-1 bomber’s flypast.