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The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is anticipated to approve the development of a comprehensive Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) program by mid-2024. This decision will follow the conclusion of all tests conducted by the Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT) UAV, the precursor technology demonstrator project for the UCAV.

Last year, the SWiFT completed its inaugural flight from the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka. The test exhibited flawless performance, including take-off, way-point navigation, and a smooth touchdown, all while operating in a fully autonomous mode.

The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) in Bengaluru, a research laboratory under DRDO, will spearhead the design and development of the UCAV. The envisioned UCAV will possess reconnaissance capabilities and will be equipped to carry out tactical actions such as deploying missiles and bombs. Powered by a single Dry Kaveri engine capable of generating 46kN of thrust without an afterburner section, the Dry Kaveri engine is expected to receive final certification clearance from GTRE in 2025.

Although the Indian Air Force (IAF) has not officially specified its requirements, informed sources informed idrw that suggest that a minimum order of 100 units is likely. These stealth UCAVs will play a critical role in offensive operations, and the government will allocate funds based on the IAF’s requirements. Furthermore, the Indian Navy is expected to collaborate on the program to develop a deck-based UCAV capable of operating from aircraft carriers in the future. This UCAV would complement the Naval TEDBF Manned fighter jets and Unmanned Loyal Wingman jets.

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