Ghatak
A scaled down technology demonstrator of DRDO GHATAK ( SWiFT )
Role Stealth Unmanned Combat aerial Vehicle
National origin India
Designer Aeronautical Development Agency
Aeronautical Development Establishment
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
First flight 1 July, 2022[1]
Status Taxi trials, autonomous take off and landing of technology demonstrator completed.
Primary user Indian Air Force (expected)
Number built 3 prototypes [2]

Ghatak (pronounced: gʰɑːt̪ək) (Literally Deadly in Hindi)[a] is an autonomous jet powered stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Air Force.[3][4] The design work on the UCAV is to be carried out by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft (AURA) was a tentative name for the UCAV.[5][6] Details of the project are classified.[7]

The Ghatak UCAV will have an internal weapons bay for carrying missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions. Its design will be based on a flying-wing concept, and will be powered by a turbofan engine.

The first flight of a scaled down testbed was carried out in July 2022,[8] and that of a full scale prototype is expected in 2025.[9]

Description

The Ghatak is an autonomous jet powered stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE).[10] It was initially called the Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft (AURA),[6] but was eventually renamed as Ghatak UCAV.[1][5] In 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Rajya Sabha that the Ghatak UCAV will be powered by a dry variant of the Kaveri afterburning turbofan engine,[11] which will have a thrust of 52 kilonewtons.[5]

The flight control system and data link packages of the UCAV will be developed inhouse by ADA and Defence Electronics Application Laboratory.[12] The Ghatak UCAV will be developed with public – private sector participation.[13]

In 2011, in an interview given to The Economic Times, DRDO's Chief Controller, R&D (aeronautics), Dr Prahlada said, "the UCAV will have on-board mission computers, data links, fire control radars, identification of friend or foe, and collision avoidance systems, they will be highly intelligent drones", he also added that "UCAV will be capable of flying at altitudes of 30,000 ft [9,144 m] and weighing less than 15 tonnes, will have rail-launching for the missiles, bombs and PGMs (precision-guided munitions) they will carry."[14]

Development

Project Ghatak

Project Ghatak was initiated as a successor to the 2009 AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft) programme. The AURA was a pioneer programme sanctioned in 2009 with a budget of 125 million (equivalent to 310 million or US$3.8 million in 2023), to carryout a feasibility study for the future Indian UCAV. The AURA programme was completed in April 2013.[5] The project Ghatak was initiated by ADA in consultation with the Indian Air Force (IAF), with an objective to develop a stealthy UCAV based on flying wing design.[5] The flying wing configuration is inherently stealthy, can carry more fuel and payload than conventional UCAV designs, however it has more complex flight control surfaces and laws.[9] Times Now news quoting DRDO scientists reports that this design ensures optimum fuel use and stability for the aircraft.[15] The Ghatak UCAV is projected to weigh less than a fighter jet and is intended to be powered by a 'dry engine' derivative of GTRE GTX-35VS Kaveri turbofan engine capable of producing a thrust of 52 kN.[5] According to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) document dated to 2017, an initial fund of 2.31 billion (equivalent to 3.3 billion or US$40 million in 2023) had been allocated in 2016 for the design of Ghatak and development of critical advanced Technologies for Ghatak & HAL AMCA.[16][1] The Indian Navy is also interested in the project, and is keen on acquiring deck based UCAVs for future aircraft carriers and Landing Platform Docks (LPD).[17]

Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT)

Successful maiden flight of SWiFT on 1 July 2022.

Development of a scaled down technology demonstrator of Ghatak UCAV, called Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT), began in 2020.[17] According to DRDO, the SWiFT UAV is intended to develop and demonstrate technologies for controlling the flying wing configuration and flight characteristics at high-subsonic speed.[9] The ground trials of SWiFT UAV began in June 2021, picture and videos of it carrying out taxi trials surfaced on 29 October 2021.[9] The SWiFT UAV has a length of 4 metres and a wingspan of 5 metres.[18][15] The weigh of Swift UAV is around 1 tonne, and it uses a NPO Saturn 36MT[15] or TRDD-50MT turbofan engine.[8]

The SWiFT UAV (technology demonstrator of Ghatak UCAV) took its maiden flight on 1 July 2022.[8] According to DRDO, the aircraft exhibited a perfect flight, including take-off, way-point navigation and a smooth touchdown while operating in a fully autonomous mode.[10] However, the aircraft flown in the video uses a vertical stabilizer which is otherwise absent from the design. This is possibly due to issues with the horizontal stability of the aircraft.[19]

The airframe, undercarriage and entire flight control and avionics systems used for the aircraft (SWiFT UAV) were developed indigenously.[8] Apart from being a precursor for technology development related to Ghatak project, SWiFT might also move ahead as separate project under unmanned wingman bomber program.[18]

SWiFT in flying wing configuration at Chitradurga Aeronautical Test Range on 15 December 2023.

On 15 December 2023, DRDO successfully demonstrated the flight trial of SWiFT in a flying wing configuration at Chitradurga Aeronautical Test Range. For this test, the avionic systems were further improved, demonstrating the level of technological maturity and preparedness. The platform has already finished six flight trials in various developmental configurations following its debut flight in 2022. It features an advanced ground control station, real-time and hardware-in-loop simulation, and improved aerodynamic and control systems. Lightweight carbon prepreg composite material, created locally, was used to construct the body. Fiber interrogators are infused into the composite structure in order to monitor health. With the use of onboard sensor data fusion and GAGAN receivers, autonomous landing has been demonstrated to be possible from any runway with documented coordinates, negating the requirement for ground radars, infrastructure, or pilots.[20]

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Notes

  1. ^ from Hindi/Sanskrit 'घातक' (romanised: ghātaka) meaning 'killer', 'deadly'

References

  1. ^ a b c Aroor, Shiv (2 February 2018). "EXCLUSIVE: Inside The World Of India's Most Secret Combat Aircraft Program". Livefist. Archived from the original on 31 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Modeled On US B-2 Spirit, India Joins Elite Group Of Nations With Indigenous, Hi-Speed, Flying-Wing UAV". The EurAsian Times. 15 December 2023. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  3. ^ "India to develop unmanned combat aerial vehicle". Hindustan Times. IANS. 25 November 2009. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  4. ^ "New Imagery Details Indian Aura UCAV". Aviation Week & Space Technology. 16 July 2012. Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "India set to develop own stealth combat drones". The Times of India. 14 December 2015. Archived from the original on 15 January 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b Pubby, Manu (15 July 2018). "Government set to clear Rs 3,000 crore plan to develop engine for India's first UCAV". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  7. ^ "India developing unmanned combat aerial vehicle". India Today. 10 June 2010. Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Peri, Dinakar (1 July 2022). "DRDO flight tests new autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 2 July 2022. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d "DRDO's stealth attack UAV back in focus as footage of demonstrator emerges". The Week. 29 October 2021. Archived from the original on 3 July 2022. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  10. ^ a b Alex Philip, Snehesh (1 July 2022). "'Major milestone': India conducts maiden flight of unmanned aircraft demonstrator". ThePrint. Archived from the original on 2 July 2022. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Indigenous Kaveri engine to power Unmanned Combat Aircraft". Business Standard. PTI. 30 July 2015. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  12. ^ Ghosh, Anirvan (17 January 2011). "We never had a single failure in 1,500 flights of Tejas: ADE". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  13. ^ Pubby, Manu. "Government set to clear Rs 3,000 crore plan to develop engine for India's first UCAV". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 3 July 2022. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  14. ^ Pandit, Rajat (11 April 2011). "India quietly begins combat drone project". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Hazra, Dipavali (2 July 2022). "DRDO takes major step towards developing unmanned combat aerial vehicles: Explained". TimesNow. Archived from the original on 3 July 2022. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  16. ^ "DRDO Projects". Ministry of Defence. 3 February 2017. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019 – via Press Information Bureau.
  17. ^ a b Krishnan M, Anantha (10 January 2021). "ADE steps into new decade with planeloads of critical projects". OnManorama. Archived from the original on 10 January 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  18. ^ a b "DRDO initiates the trials of advanced stealth SWiFT drone". NewsOnAIR –. 23 June 2021. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  19. ^ Kadidal, Akhil; Parakala, Akshara (4 July 2022). "DRDO successfully test flies flying-wing UCAV". Janes. Archived from the original on 24 November 2022. Retrieved 23 November 2022.
  20. ^ Jaiswal, Arushi; Prasad, Manish (15 December 2023). "DRDO successfully conducts flight trial of Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator". India TV News. Retrieved 15 December 2023.

Technical: