Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has floated tenders that for the first time reveals companies plan to convert, now vintage, intermediate jet-powered trainer aircraft to be used as Technology demonstrators for the upcoming Unmanned wingmen armed stealth drone program that will fight alongside IAF fighters to hit high-value enemy targets. Tender documents also suggest that HJT-16 Kiran UAV will be able to switch between Internal and External Pilot or operate as Autonomous mode by AI.

HAL had unveiled its Unmanned Wingman concept at the Aero India 2019 and according to HAL, the Unmanned Wingman concept is currently envisioned to be a 6 m-class, low-observable, multipurpose unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) with an endurance of up to 80 minutes and a range of 800 km. Armed with AI, the drone is designed to fly nearly 100 kilometers ahead of a conventional fighter to engage enemy threats.

Unmanned Wingman

Unmanned Wingman will have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,300 kg and will be 6.4 m long and 4.4 m wide and will be indigenously developed HAL PTAE 7 turbojet engine, generating 4.22 kN thrust and can accommodate up to 250 kg of stores, including air-to-surface weapons, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare (EW) payloads, but future versions of the platform will also be able to fire air-to-air missiles to target enemy fighters.

HAL has tied up with a local start-up called NewSpace Research and Technologies (NRT) to develop the low-cost platforms that can provide on-call support to forward-deployed combat aircraft operating in contested airspace. has been informed, that IAF has given HAL tactical backing for the program.

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