|A scaled down technology demonstrator of DRDO GHATAK|
|Role||Stealth Unmanned Combat aerial Vehicle|
|Designer||Aeronautical Development Agency |
Aeronautical Development Establishment
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
|First flight||1 July, 2022|
|Status||Taxi trials, autonomous take off and landing of technology demonstrator completed.|
|Primary user||Indian Air Force (expected)|
Ghatak (pronounced: gʰɑːt̪ək)[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. 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. Details of the project are classified.
The Ghatak UCAV will have internal weapons bay for carrying missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions. Its design will be based on 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, and that of a full scale prototype is expected in 2025.
The Ghatak is an autonomous jet powered stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE). It was initially called the Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft (AURA), but was eventually renamed as Ghatak UCAV. In 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed Rajya Sabha that Ghatak UCAV will be powered by a dry variant of Kaveri afterburning turbofan engine, which will have a thrust of 52 kilonewtons.
The flight control system and data link packages of the UCAV will be developed inhouse by ADA and Defence Electronics Application Laboratory. The Ghatak UCAV will be developed with public – private sector participation.
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."
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 ₹270 million or US$3.3 million in 2020), to carryout a feasibility study for the future Indian UCAV. The AURA programme was completed in April 2013. 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. 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. Times Now news quoting DRDO scientists reports that this design ensures optimum fuel use and stability for the aircraft. 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. According to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) document dated to 2017, an initial fund of ₹2.31 billion (equivalent to ₹2.8 billion or US$35 million in 2020) had been allocated in 2016 for the design of Ghatak and development of critical advanced Technologies for Ghatak & HAL AMCA. 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).
Development of a scaled down technology demonstrator of Ghatak UCAV, called Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT), began in 2020. 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. The ground trials of SWiFT UAV began in June 2021, picture and videos of it carrying out taxi trials surfaced on 29 October 2021. It had resemblance to the US Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The SWiFT UAV has a length of 4 metres and a wingspan of 5 metres. The weigh of Swift UAV is around 1 tonne, and it uses a NPO Saturn 36MT or TRDD-50MT turbofan engine.
The SWiFT UAV (technology demonstrator of Ghatak UCAV) took its maiden flight on 1 July 2022. 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. 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.
The airframe, undercarriage and entire flight control and avionics systems used for the aircraft (SWiFT UAV) were developed indigenously. 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.