Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has unveiled at Aero India 2021 a system called CATS Hunter that belong to the umbrella family of the Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) that will also have a Tejas Mk1 Trainer as ‘Mothership for Air teaming eXploitation’ (MAX) with a Weapon Station Officer (WSO) in charge of the CATS Warrior, a low-observable unmanned wingman, CATS ALFA (Air-Launched Flexible Assets) in a Glider Pod that will cruise for 100km+ before a swarm of battery-operated weaponized drones is launched from the glider pod that can further travel 100km deep inside enemy areas.

CATS Hunter at a glance looks like a long-range, autonomous, high-precision air-to-surface cruise missile that is equipped with an Imaging Infrared (IIR) seeker and an inertial measurement unit (IMU) for high-precision guidance and can be seen with fuel tank, air inlet, wing deployment system, powered by a PTAE-7 turbojet engine with the rear section fitted with control fins for providing lifting and improved maneuverability, all in all, it has the trademarks of a low-observable air-launched cruise missile but what makes it interesting probably first in the world is that it has a multi-purpose weapons carriage system.

According to HAL, CATS Hunter can carry up to 250kg of different types of warhead depending on the requirements of the mission and with its multi-purpose weapons carriage system, it can be equipped with 250 kg warhead that can be dropped over the target and Hunter can autonomously come back to the base or the designated area well inside its border before it is recovered using a two-tier parachute system, only later to be picked up and taken back to the workshop.

According to HAL, Once recovered Hunter can be refueled and rearmed and made available again for the next mission in a short time frame to be equipped again with another launch aircraft. CATS Hunter will not only work autonomously but also can be reprogrammed with fresh sets of satellite images of its new target so that it can work even in Jammed airspace without requiring any satellite or mid-flight updates. CATS Hunter if is unable to find its target it will simply find another target from its library or head back home.

CATS Hunter will be a 600-700kg system with 250kg warhead, that should give it a range of 250-350kms one-way, but in missions where the missile can’t be recovered due to range constraints then missile will attack its target like standard Air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) where it will self destruct.

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