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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has expressed its endorsement for the proposal put forward by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and private sector companies to develop a jet-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) specifically designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in high-altitude regions. Sources familiar with the matter have indicated that the IAF is on board with the program, and a request for a technical feasibility study report is expected soon.

HAL, known for its development of the Combat Air Teaming System (CATS), an indigenous unmanned and manned combat aircraft air teaming system, has presented the concept of a High-Altitude, Long-Endurance (HALE) Class UAV as part of the CATS Warrior for Loyal Wingman and strike roles. This concept has garnered attention and support from the IAF, demonstrating their interest in advancing unmanned aerial capabilities for various mission requirements.

The proposed jet-powered UAV, still in its early stages, is anticipated to be equipped with the HTFE-25 (Hindustan Turbo Fan Engine), a 25 kN turbofan engine. While the design work is yet to commence, the HTFE-25 engine shows promise in powering this high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance, and multipurpose UAV.

With a maximum takeoff weight estimated to be around 7-8 tons, the jet-powered UAV will have the capacity to carry a diverse range of payloads. These may include electro-optic systems, synthetic aperture radar, early warning radars, electronic reconnaissance systems, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, anti-radiation missiles, and loitering munitions. This versatility will enable the UAV to effectively undertake a wide array of ISR missions and provide enhanced operational capabilities to the IAF.

The development of a jet-powered UAV signifies a significant advancement in India’s unmanned aerial capabilities, particularly in high-altitude regions. These UAVs offer improved speed, endurance, and payload capacity, enabling enhanced situational awareness, surveillance, and targeted strikes. Such capabilities are vital for effective operations in challenging terrains and border regions.

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