Design work of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle ‘Aura’ accomplished

One of the early tasks of a new government that would be formed in the second half of next May will be to give a ‘go-ahead’ to India’s own Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), provisionally called ‘Aura.’ The initial work on the programme is underway already at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

According to a top source in the defence science establishment, the project is being largely driven by the IAF, who would still like to keep it under wraps as much as possible. Hence, the abiding low decibel level on the project.

Former Chief Controller of Research and Development (CCR&D) of the aeronautics division of the DRDO, Dr Prahlada had made it public in April 2011 in the media, unveiling the rudimentary plans of the programme. He had said that the UCAV would have stealth features and an artist’s impression of it had it seeming like the B-2 stealth bombers of the USA.

The government had then sanctioned seed money worth Rs 50 crores to kick-start the project. According to Prahlada, the UCAV is to weigh 15 tonnes; fly at 30,000 feet altitude; and to be powered by the Kaveri engine of 75 kilo newtons that proved to be underpowered for the light combat aircraft, Tejas.

The latest information, according to the source, says that the basic design work have been accomplished, though it has not been frozen yet as the government clearance is awaited.

The UCAV is being designed to carry both missiles and precision guided munitions (PGMs). It is to be made with wide use of composites, as the basic building material. The weapons were to be attached to it conformally, thus further reducing the radar cross-section picture, hence enhancing stealth.

The take-off and landing part of the UCAV’s flight is to be manned, while it cruises autonomously on the basis of its mission computer, though weapons release and guidance is to be commanded by operators at base.

The data-link band-width for the exercise will obviously be of a high order, but the source said since ‘Rustam,’ the newly inducted UAV is having similar data-link, it should not be a problem to get the same for ‘Aura.’

Considering the fact, that the American UCAVs inducted into South Asia have shown their capabilities in hitting targets (though with high levels of killed civilians), the Indian UCAV will also bring in change in the theatre  of future battles in the region.

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