In a major development, DRDO has successfully conducted the maiden flight of the Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator from Chitradurga ATR. The UCAV is all set to begin it flight testing following this maiden flight. This is India’s highly secretive unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme, under which a technology demonstrator called stealth wing flying testbed or SWiFT is being developed. This is a major milestone in development of this UAV.
This technology demonstrator will form the basis for the larger Ghatak UCAV which will be equivalent to LCA Tejas in load carrying capacity. The high speed taxi trails of this UAV were conducted last year. The exclusive footages of this taxi trials were shared by Alpha Defense / Reach Defence team. You can see that video below.
This project started as a technology demonstrator for Ghatak UCAV which was earlier called as AURA. The Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft entered feasibility study stage in 2009 with a budget of INR 125 million (equivalent to ₹270 million or US$3.5 million in 2020) and this study was successfully completed in April 2013.
In Q4 of 2020, a small version of delta wing UAV was developed by ADA and IISc Banglore and test flown in Hosur. The UAV utilised a microjet engine and attained a maximum velocity of 190 km/h (120 mph) during its first flight. The photograph of the inital flying wing micro UAV can be seen below.
As shown in the embedded video – In June 2021, DRDO initiated ground trials of the first assembled prototype weighing 1 ton all-up weight. It is believed the UAV is powered by NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine which was used in Initial designs of Nirbhay Subsonic Cruise Missile. The Russian engine will be replaced by Manik Small Turbofan Engine (STFE) (The name is dropped) at later stage. This Short Turbofan Engine is developed by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) which was already successfully tested on Nirbhay cruise missile and Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM).
This prototype will collect data on controllability of flying wing configuration and design stability, aircraft flight control system, autonomous landing and take-off technology, retractable landing gear system and radar cross-section. Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) developed the 1 ton weight class retractable landing gear for SWiFT and delivered it to ADE for integration. It was already certified by Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
Overall this is a massive development in Indian Aerospace Design and Development corridors.