India has successfully conducted the maiden flight of an unmanned autonomous flying wing technology demonstrator. This is the first yet vital step towards building a full-fledged stealth combat drone capable of firing missiles and dropping bombs.
- In June 2021, the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Jammu was attacked using two low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These IEDs were dropped from two drones.
- It was the first time that suspected Pakistan-based terrorists have used unmanned aerial vehicles in an attack.
- These attacks have restarted a debate around drones as a threat to internal security.
- India has carried out the maiden flight of the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator.
- The test of the demonstrator, also known as the ‘Stealth Wing Flying Testbed’ (SWiFT), was successfully conducted from the Aeronautical Test Range, Chitradurga, Karnataka.
- SWiFT has been developed as a technology demonstrator for India’s secretive steal combat drone called Ghatak.
Key highlights –
- Design and development — The UAV was designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru, a premier research laboratory of DRDO.
- Reduced sized autonomous aircraft —
- It is a reduced sized autonomous aircraft and is proving various technologies for autonomous aircraft to be built in future.
- The demonstrator, which looks like the mini version of a US B-2 stealth bomber, has a similar flying wing configuration.
- This enables it to carry more fuel and remain in air for a longer duration. It also gives the aircraft less radar signature.
- Indigenous components — The airframe, undercarriage, entire flight control and avionics systems of the SWiFT have been developed indigenously.
- Russian engine —
- It is currently powered by a small Russian turbofan engine.
- The engine is Russian TRDD-50MT originally designed for cruise missiles.
- However, the plan is to build a remotely-piloted strike aircraft with the indigenous Kaveri aero-engine.
Other developments by DRDO –
- DRDO is in the process of developing UAVs of different classes to meet the requirements of the armed forces.
- Rustom-2, the indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV is under development.
- It had crossed a milestone by reaching an altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 10 hours in December 2021.
- It is being designed to reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and 18 hours endurance.
- An Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle is also on the drawing board.