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In 2021, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a state-owned company, unveiled its Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) family, consisting of “loyal wingmen” or “manned-unmanned warriors.” Mock-ups of these systems were showcased at the Aero India 2021 exhibition in Bangalore. One of the systems presented was the Hunter, a low-observable, long-range, air-launched cruise missile weighing 600kg.

The Hunter is set to be powered by a single PTAE-7 turbojet engine with a thrust of 4.2kN and has a range of 200km. Initially, there were discussions about the missile’s reusability, with plans to recover the missile after it drops its 250 warheads using parachutes. However, sources familiar with the matter have confirmed to idrw that the final configuration of the Hunter missile will undergo further refinements, possibly abandoning the reusability factor to enhance its long-range capabilities.

In parallel, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is also working on sub-sonic, long-range Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM) based on the Integrated Test Combustor Module (ITCM). These ALCMs are expected to have a range exceeding 800km and can be launched from any fighter jet in the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet.

Additionally, BrahMos Aerospace is working on the development of the BrahMos-NG, a Mach 3.5 capable missile with a range of 300km, which can also be launched from fighter jets. To ensure that these three programs remain distinct and avoid overlapping with each other, extensive reworking of various parameters and factors will be required before finalizing the configuration of the Hunter ALCM. It is worth noting that the development of the Air-launched LRCM and BrahMos-NG has been progressing simultaneously for some time.

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