India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) unveiled its Unmanned Wingman concept at the Aero India 2019 exhibition held in Bangalore from 20–24 February.
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, although its size can be scaled up for greater endurance or payload capacity should there be a customer requirement.
The development is an effort led by HAL with industry partners, including a local start-up called NewSpace Research and Technologies (NRT), to develop low-cost platforms that can provide on-call support to forward-deployed combat aircraft operating in contested airspace.
The proposed UCAV design depicts an aerodynamic almond-shaped nose, mid-wing monoplane with slender fuselage and V-tail. According to HAL specifications, the air vehicle will have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,300 kg and will be 6.4 m long and 4.4 m wide.
It is expected to be powered by an indigenously developed HAL PTAE 7 turbojet engine – which is also powering the Lakshya target UAV – rated 4.22 kN (948 lb) that will reportedly enable the air vehicle to attain a cruise speed of Mach 0.7. A new engine will be acquired to improve flight performance, a HAL official told Jane’s .
The UCAV will feature a modular ventral payload bay that can accommodate up to 250 kg of stores, including air-to-surface weapons, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare (EW) payloads.
It will have a combat radius of up to 400 km and can be directed by a pilot via a multi-frequency sub-1 GHz communication system with an integral datalink at ranges of up to 200 km, although it can also operate in a fully autonomous mode once it leaves control range.
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