According to Janes, flight testing of India’s ‘Warrior’ drone, which is part of the indigenous Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and private sector partners, would begin in 2024.
The story claims that “a loyal wingman programme being built by India’s HAL is on track to see flight-testing by 2024.” HAL’s Warrior is being designed to complement and maximise the effectiveness of existing manned fighter jets such as the LCA Tejas and Rafale of the Indian Air Force.
The drone, which will be equipped with sensors, will act as a force multiplier for the human fighter, assisting it with surveillance, reconnaissance, and early warning tasks.
HAL’s pavilion at Aero India 2021 featured a mock-up of the drone, which initially appeared in 2019. It was positioned beneath a mock-up of an LCA Tejas fighter that was carrying other CATS systems.
“A composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms that work together to penetrate heavily protected enemy airspace,” according to CATS. When it was unveiled at Aero India 2021, this manned-unmanned teaming technology was still in the early phases of development.
CATS also has a cruise missile dubbed the CATS Hunter on show at Aero India, as well as the CATS ALFA-S switchblade swarm drone. The CATS Hunter will be able to hit targets from a distance of 200 kilometres.
New Space Research & Technologies, a Bengaluru-based start-up, is developing the ALFA-S [Air Launched Flexible Asset – Swarm] drone. It is a swarm drone system that can hone in on numerous targets. It was first presented as part of the ‘Jaguar Max’ upgrade package in 2019.
Drones are housed in a carrier with this method. This drone carrier, placed on a fighter, can fly for up to 100 kilometres before deploying the drones. These drones may strike adversary objectives like surface-to-air missile positions and parked aircraft. A private company is also working on the Warrior drone.
Air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles can be carried by the faithful wingman. The Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW), an indigenously manufactured long-range precision-guided stand-off munition created by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, was carried by the Warrior model on exhibit at Aero India 2021. (DRDO).
The IAF’s fighter jets will be modernised and modified to command unmanned warfare platforms, according to reports. A single fighter plane equipped for the purpose (the LCA Tejas fighter labelled ‘CATS MAX’ in the image above) will be able to command several Warrior drones and transport additional CATS parts.
The deployment of an unmanned Warrior platform as a faithful wingman will not only operate as a force multiplier, but it will also reduce the likelihood of casualties during an attack. The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom are all working on similar air combat teaming systems.
In Australia, Boeing is developing an Airpower Teaming System, popularly known as the Boeing Loyal Wingman project. In the United States, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has developed the Valkyrie, a faithful wingman aircraft.