A full scale replica of India’s first-ever semi-stealth drone is being showcased at Aero India, the mega air-show which kicks off in Bengaluru this week. The drone, however, is still under development stage.
The drone, called Warrior, is part of an indigenous programme called CATS or Combat Air Teaming System, described as “a composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms which work together to penetrate heavily defended enemy airspace.” In simple terms, the Warrior drone is being designed to operate with an Indian-made Tejas combat aircraft flown by an Indian Air Force pilot, which it will defend and fight with as they go into combat together.
The first Warrior prototypes are expected to fly within three to five years and is being funded by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).
“Multiple Warriors will be commanded by a single Tejas,” said a source. The idea is to maximise the effectiveness of every mission while reducing the potential of losing the lives of precious pilots since they would be accompanied by the drones which would protect them. “The Warrior is being armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles,” which would be used to hit targets on the ground or in the air.
The Warrior, while not an out-and-out stealth platform, which would allow it to evade being picked up by radar, is classified ‘low observable’, which makes its detection challenging for contemporary systems.
At the moment, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which has been working on drone warfare concepts for more than five years, is working towards the design, development and integration of key subsystems of Warrior. The Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, the eventual users of the platform, will need to re-shape their operational philosophies around the concept of ‘combat-teaming’ to effectively integrate the use of a manned and unmanned platform.