India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has handed over retractable landing gear systems for the Tapas and SWiFT unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The handing over ceremony took place at Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), a DRDO laboratory based in Avadi, Chennai, in the presence of Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary at Department of Defence R&D (DDR&D) and Chairman DRDO; and Pravin Kumar Mehta, Director General – Armament & Combat Engineering Systems (ACE) at DRDO.
The landing gear systems were delivered to Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the designer of the Tapas and SWiFT UAVs. During the ceremony, DRDO also handed over 18 types of filters for Indian Navy Project 75 (P-75) diesel-electric attack submarine program.
Rustom 2 (Rustom-II, also called TAPAS-BH-201, “Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201“) is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV being developed by DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces. DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) is the lead developer of the drone with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) as the production partners.
Once fully ready, the Rustom UAVs will replace Israeli Heron UAVs being used by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Navy. According to Indian media, Rustom-2 is comparable to the American-made MQ-1 Predator drone and can fly for 24 hours at stretch.
The drone is powered by two wing-mounted NPO-Saturn 36MT turboprop engines delivering a thrust of around 73.55 kW (~100 hp) each.
Rustom-2 is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads depending on the mission objectives including synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems and situational awareness systems. It has a satellite communications (SATCOM) link to relay real time battlefield information.
The drone can loiter autonomously at high altitudes performing real-time, high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) with its SAR and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensors.
First flight of the UAV took place in November 2016 after a 3-year delay. In September2019, a Rustom UAV on an experimental flight trial in new configuration crash landed in fields near Challakere Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka. DRDO resumed the flight tests of the UAV in October, 2020.
Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT)
The Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT) is a technology demonstrator for an autonomous stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Indian Ministry of Defence’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur.
SWiFT is a scaled down testbed intended to develop technologies required for DRDO Ghatak UCAV program, tentatively called Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft (AURA). The Ghatak UCAV will be capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions.
A prototype of the SWIFT is expected to be flight-tested by 2021 with a NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine. The full scale Ghatak prototype is expected to conduct its maiden flight in 2024-25.