New Delhi: India on Friday carried out the maiden flight of the ‘Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator’, a critical step towards the country’s plans to have a full-fledged stealth combat drone.
The test of the demonstrator, also known as the ‘Stealth Wing Flying Testbed’ (SWiFT), was successfully conducted from the Aeronautical Test Range, Chitradurga, Karnataka.
The demonstrator, which looks like the mini version of a US B-2 stealth bomber, has a similar “flying wing” configuration. This enables it to carry more fuel and remain in air for a longer duration. It also gives the aircraft less radar signature.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRD0) said the aircraft exhibited a perfect flight, including take-off, way-point navigation and a smooth touchdown while operating in a fully autonomous mode.
The DRDO added: “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 technologies.”
There was no confirmation on how long the flight was.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru, a research laboratory under DRDO.
This technology demonstrator is part of India’s eventual plan to build an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) which will be capable of reconnaissance and will also carry out tactical actions like dropping both missiles and bombs.
The technology demonstrator is powered by a small Russian turbofan engine.
The airframe, undercarriage and the entire flight control and avionics systems were developed indigenously, DRDO officials said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the maiden flight was a major achievement in autonomous aircraft and would pave the way for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in terms of critical military systems.
Sources said this demonstrator would test all technology that has been brought in, and whether it was capable of the mission.
They said more trials would be undertaken on the technology demonstrator before moving on to the main project, which would be larger in design and capabilities.
They also said the demonstrator would showcase to the end user – the armed forces –the capability that exists.
Sources pointed out that the success of the project would depend on the quality requirements put forward by the end user and the sanctions given by the government.
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