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Aero India 2019: HAL unveils Unmanned Wingman concept

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.

An impression of HAL’s proposed Unmanned Wingman concept. (IHS Markit/Rahul Udoshi)

An impression of HAL’s proposed Unmanned Wingman concept. (IHS Markit/Rahul Udoshi)

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.

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