Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has floated tenders that for the first time reveals companies plan to convert, now vintage, intermediate jet-powered trainer aircraft to be used as Technology demonstrators for the upcoming Unmanned wingmen armed stealth drone program that will fight alongside IAF fighters to hit high-value enemy targets. Tender documents also suggest that HJT-16 Kiran UAV will be able to switch between Internal and External Pilot or operate as Autonomous mode by AI.
– Indian Defence Research Wing
HAL had unveiled its Unmanned Wingman concept at the Aero India 2019 and according to HAL, 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. Armed with AI, the drone is designed to fly nearly 100 kilometers ahead of a conventional fighter to engage enemy threats.
Unmanned Wingman will have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,300 kg and will be 6.4 m long and 4.4 m wide and will be indigenously developed HAL PTAE 7 turbojet engine, generating 4.22 kN thrust and can accommodate up to 250 kg of stores, including air-to-surface weapons, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare (EW) payloads, but future versions of the platform will also be able to fire air-to-air missiles to target enemy fighters.
HAL has tied up with a local start-up called NewSpace Research and Technologies (NRT) to develop the low-cost platforms that can provide on-call support to forward-deployed combat aircraft operating in contested airspace. idrw.org has been informed, that IAF has given HAL tactical backing for the program.