In what can be termed a major advancement toward India’s plans to have a full-fledged stealth combat drone, the country successfully carried out the maiden flight of the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator from the Aeronautical Test Range at Chitradurga in Karnataka on Friday.
The test demonstrator dubbed the “‘Stealth Wing Flying Testbed’ (SWiFT)”, has an uncanny resemblance and looks like the mini version of a US B-2 stealth bomber with a similar “flying wing” configuration.
According to DRDO, the aircraft performed a perfect flight, including take-off, way-point navigation and a smooth touchdown while operating in a fully autonomous mode.
This flight marks a major milestone in terms of proving critical technologies towards the development of future unmanned aircraft and is a significant step towards self-reliance in such strategic defence technologiesDRDO
SWiFT-India’s secretive unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme
SWiFT UAV is a Technology Demonstrator and is a scaled-down version of Ghatak UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle). The main intent of SWiFT UAV is to demonstrate and prove the stealth technology and high-speed landing technology in autonomous modeDRDO
Ghatak is intended to be an unmanned aircraft which can not only be used for surveillance but also to fire precision weapons at designated targets, using its stealth features to avoid detection by enemy sensors in contested airspace.
In June 2021, DRDO initiated ground trials of the first assembled prototype weighing 1-ton all-up weight and powered by an NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine. The Russian engine will be replaced by Manik Small Turbofan Engine (STFE) at a later stage developed Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) which was already successfully tested on the Nirbhay cruise missile and Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM).
Reportedly, the airframe, undercarriage and the entire flight control and avionics systems were all developed indigenously.
The Defence Ministry highlighted that the aircraft marks a major milestone in terms of proving critical technologies for the development of future unmanned aircraft. Furthermore, this aircraft is a significant step toward self-reliance in such strategic defence technologies.
A full-scale prototype is expected in 2024–25.
COVER: Defence View