ndia’s unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) subscale drone demonstrator has appeared for the first time, revealing details of the flying wing design. The unmanned aerial vehicle, known as the SWiFT, is intended to serve as a proof-of-concept for a planned production combat drone, the Ghatak, which is reportedly being developed primarily as an unmanned strike aircraft.
Photos and video of the SWiFT — which stands for Stealth Wing Flying Testbed — appeared yesterday, apparently showing taxi trials of the demonstrator drone that were likely conducted at the Chitradurga Aeronautical Test Range in the southern state of Karnataka, in mid-August. So far, there has been no official statement from the Indian Ministry of Defense or from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the latter of which is in overall charge of the project.
In terms of appearance, the SWiFT corresponds, broadly, with previous artist’s concepts and scale models of the drone and, more generally, of those of the Ghatak, with which it shares a flying-wing planform and an engine intake located above the forward fuselage. While the trailing edge of the drone is difficult to make out, it appears to have a classic tailless flying wing profile, providing an overall arrowhead shape, rather than the highly cranked wing found on other stealthy drones, such as the Northrop Grumman X-47B. Its trailing edge is less swept than other designs, like Russia’s S-70, for instance.
In terms of size, the SWiFT is estimated to be around 13 feet long, with a wingspan of somewhat over 16 feet, and is thought to weigh approximately 2,300 pounds.
The landing gear on the SWiFT is notably large, likely a reflection of this being essentially a scaled-down demonstrator for the Ghatak, rather than a full-size UCAV in its own right. Previous concept artwork suggested that the drone would incorporate some kind of internal weapons bay, although whether that has been included on this smaller demonstrator is unclear. An array of aerials and a sensor fairing can be seen on top of the fuselage, but these are certainly related to test work rather than being mission-optimized.
The powerplant for the SWiFT is understood to be a Russian-made NPO Saturn 36MT, a small turbofan otherwise used to power cruise missiles. A view of the drone from the rear suggests that, unlike the Okhotnik in its current form, the design seems to include some kind of shrouded engine exhaust, which would reduce infrared and radar signature from this aspect. Low-observable exhausts can be among the most challenging aspects of stealthy designs like this.