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In a significant leap towards technological advancement, the Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a premier research laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has set its sights on the development of cutting-edge unmanned aerial combat vehicles (UCAVs).

The ambitious UCAV project aims to give birth to unmanned aerial vehicles with an all-up weight (AUW) of approximately 12.5 to 13 tons. To put this into perspective, this weight range aligns closely with the AUW of the LCA-Tejas Mk1A fighter jets – a testament to the substantial scale of this venture. M.Z Siddique, recently appointed as the Director General of DRDO Aeronautical Cluster (DG-Aero), confirmed this groundbreaking development.

The journey towards this futuristic technology was catalyzed by the successful testing of the Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWiFT) last year. This 1-ton Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator laid the foundation for the upcoming UCAV program. The forthcoming UCAV will incorporate state-of-the-art features, including stealth technology, to ensure optimal performance in various mission scenarios.

The envisioned UCAV will be powered by the Dry Kaveri engine, boasting a thrust of 46kN . The UCAV’s versatility is a highlight of the project, as it can be configured for multiple roles. It can serve as a wingman to manned fighter jets, embarking on air superiority missions alongside platforms like the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF). Simultaneously, it can transform into a deep strike unmanned aircraft, penetrating heavily fortified enemy sectors.

The project’s trajectory involves progressing from the SWiFT Technology Demonstrator phase to seeking financial clearance from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the development of the larger 13-ton UCAV for the Indian Air Force. Additionally, plans are afoot for the creation of a deck-based UCAV variant, catering to the requirements of the Indian Navy.

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