The ‘Warrior’ is being developed to go into combat as a loyal wingman drone with existing manned fighter jets.
India’s new ‘Warrior’ drone, which is part of the indigenous Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited along with the private sector, has been revealed at Aero India 2021.
HAL’s Warrior is being developed to go into combat as a loyal wingman drone with existing manned fighter jets like LCA Tejas and Rafale of the IAF to complement and maximise their effectiveness.
The drone, integrated with sensor packages, will be a force multiplier for the manned fighter, capable of performing surveillance, reconnaissance, and early warning missions to aid its mission.
A mock-up of India’s first semi-stealth drone, which first emerged in 2019, has found a place at HAL’s pavilion at the Aero India show, below an LCA Tejas fighter carrying many new systems part of the CATS.
The Warrior is part of the Combat Air Teaming System, which is “a composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms which work together to penetrate heavily defended enemy airspace.”
Other parts of the Combat Air Teaming System displayed at Aero India 2021 (on the LCA replica above the Hunter drone shown in the picture above) include a cruise missile called CATS Hunter and the CATS ALFA-S switchblade swarm drone.
This manned-unmanned teaming system, still in the early stages of development in India, is being developed by the HAL along with private sector players.
It is working on CATS Hunter, which will be capable of hitting targets at a range of 200 kilometres, and ALFA-S, with New Space Research & Technologies, a start-up based in Bengaluru.
ALFA-S, which was first unveiled as part of ‘Jaguar Max’ upgrade package in 2019, is a swarm drone system which can hone in on multiple targets.
The system comprises of drones housed in a carrier. This carrier, mounted on a fighter, is capable of gliding around 100 km before deploying the drones. These drones can hit enemy targets such as surface to air missiles sites and aircraft parked on the ground.
The Warrior drone is also being developed with a private player.
The loyal wingman can be armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. The Warrior model displayed at Aero India this year carries a Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW), an indigenously developed long-range precision-guided stand-off munition developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
According to reports, fighter jets of the IAF will be upgraded and modified to command unmanned warrior platforms. A single fighter jet upgraded (LCA Tejas fighter labeled ‘CAT MAX’ in the picture above) for the purpose will be able to command multiple Warrior drones and carry other elements of CATS.
The use of unmanned Warrior platform as a loyal wingman will not only act as a force multiplier but also reduce the potential of loss of life during air combat.
Such air combat teaming systems are also being developed in the US, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Boeing is working on an Airpower Teaming System, also called the Boeing Loyal Wingman project, in Australia. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has developed a loyal wingman aircraft called Valkyrie in the US.