India is set to launch an ambitious project to develop its own stealth combat drones or UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles).
The UCAVs represent a more advanced and deadlier offshoot of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).
Reports suggest that the Modi government is close to approve a Rs 2,650 crore ‘Project Ghatak’ to develop the futuristic “Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle”, which has already been cleared by the defence ministry.
The project is currently awaiting the expert analysis from a finance ministry committee, and once cleared, it will be placed before the cabinet committee on security for the final nod.
These “Made in India” UCAVs will be able to fire missiles and precision-guided munitions at enemy targets and then returning to home bases to re-arm for further missions.
Project Ghatak follows the successful completion of AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft) programme, which in 2009 was was tasked to carry out research into the future Indian UCAVs.
India’s new combat drone will be powered by the indigenous Kaveri derivative engine (dry variant) without the after burner. It will have a ‘flying-wing’ design just like the US’ B-2 Spirit, a stealth bomber.
It must be noted that the Kaveri engine was not able to provide the higher thrust required to power Tejas throughout its flight envelope. This led India to go for American GE engines to power its LCA Tejas.
At the moment, Indian Armed Forces have the Harop UCAVs purchased from Israel. These Israeli UCAVs are different given that they are basically a Kamikaze type of aircraft, designed to self-destuct as it attacks its target.
Through these UCAVs, India will be looking to counter Pakistan’s success with Burraq UAVs. Burraq successfully carried out it first strike in North Waziristan area of Pakistan killing three suspected terrorists.
UCAVs are considered to be game-changers in modern day warfare. They are low-cost, have more range, greater broad-band stealth, and are able to knock down the enemy’s metaphorical front door in future wars.
The ‘Predator’ and ‘Reaper’ drones which are controlled from the US through satellites, for instance, have been extensively used to fire ‘Hellfire’ missiles against Taliban targets in the Af-Pak region.