AURA UCAV:: The Future of Indian Airforce

AURA is an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV),The ADA describes the AURA as a “self-defending high-speed reconnaissance UAV with weapon firing capability”.The project is  being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The design work on the UCAV is to be carried out by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). Details of the project are classified.

While the countries like Russia, America France and England also draws a Line to develop a unmanned combat aircraft  early 2007, the same year that India too announced. BAE England comes with Taranis Subsonic UAV. French Dassult comes with nEUROn UCAV, and Americans comes with X 47 B. where Americans started the project much earlier than others and almost evaluated most testing parameters and they are just a meters away from the Inductions. only the Indians and Russians didn’t showed up their prototype till now. even reports said the Russian MiG skat ucav project is dead.

The UCAV will be capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions. The programme is in its project definition stage. The design is in line with what former DRDO chief controller for Aeronautics said in 2007, that India’s combat drone would be a stealthy flying-wing concept aircraft with internal weapons bay and a turbofan engine.The UCAV’s design is similar to Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit.

What is Need/Purpose of AURA?

The purpose of the DRDO is to provide the Indian Air force with an option to deliver the payloads to enemy location without endangering  the life of the pilot . This will act along side with the PAK-FA & HAL AMCA , the  5thGenerations of fighter aircrafts that will start showing up on the IAF inventory towards the end of this decade or start of the next. The AURA program is also meant to compete with the other programs to provide the IAF with the best technically advanced UCAV which will form the backbone of the airforce in the next decade .

AURA will also be able to carry weapons in internal storage which will allow air force to operate them in contested access or denied enemy airspace. ADA is currently collaborating with various Universities to prepare basic technological developments before the project goes official.

Progress in the field of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle –Rustom UAV

DRDO has already made progress in the field of UCAV with the introduction of RUSTOM -2 UCAVwhich if going through the trails & is expected to enter service in few years. With two or more prototypes being built till now ,DRDO is fast tracking its UAV/UCAV programs to meet the requirements of the IAF.It also expected that most of the basic technological requirements for developing the UAV/UCAV will be tested on RUSTOM programs first before being implemented on to the AURA project.

The Plan of designing a unmanned stealth combat aircraft begins early 2007, with the induction time line of 2020,  while the early designated time frames passed and no clear progress about the UCAV, the project was frozen during the past years. It’s just emerged that DRDO in steps to design the frozen projects like  UCAV and the MIRV developments.

AURA UCAV is India’s most ambitious unnamed aerial system which will have a blend wing body and will have stealth characters to make it effective Ground Strike platform. AURA weighing 15 tons will be powered by a single Ghatak turbofan engine which will allow the drone to cruise at Mach 1.2 at an altitude of 30,000 ft.

AURA will greatly benefit from India’s 5th generation AMCA project which will be taken up as a parallel project by ADA and will have a developmental stage of 8 years once Project is given a go-ahead. Much before AURA UCAV becomes a reality Indian armed forces will have the experience to operate combat UAVS in the form of imported Israeli supplied Heron-TP and will also see much earlier induction of Rustom-II UCAVs before AURA.

AURA UCAV will carry the rail-launching for the missiles,bombs and Precision-guided munitions.The Bomber easily deployed in DEEP penetration strike,Suppression of enemy air defences,Strategic reconnaissance and electronic warfare.

Features and Specifications

The AURA will cruise at a medium altitude and will be capable of carrying two or more guided strike weapons with on-board sensors for targeting and weapon guidance.As the AURA uses Stealth Technology the UCAV itself has stealth shape and it has special paint that absorb radar signals and cannot send them back and hence not detectable by radar.IT is capable of flying at the altitude of 30,000 feet and has a range of 300+ km.The whole of the AURA is made by composite materials and weigh less than 15 tonnes.

The DRDO is going to use a Kaveri engine to power this unmanned vehicle.It will be equipped with on-board mission computers,data links,fire control radars,identification of friend or foe,and traffic collision avoidance systems.It will be adept at firing missiles and bombs at enemy targets with precision.

According to the DRDO chief Avinash Chander the AURA will be able to detect and identify targets and fire weapons at them and will be controlled with command and control centres spread across the country.The AURA will have short takeoff and landing capability on prepared runway.

It’s just been released that India restarted the AURA project, as per Initial design AURA intend to perform deep strike missions with heavy load of PGM’s weights more than Two tons, which means a bigger size of internal weapon bay Holding two one Ton PGM’s for precession strike and perform operations deep behind enemy lines, with the help of stealth achieved by RAM coating it can be easily fly enemy airspace without being detected by enemy Radars.

Unlike Fighters, UAV need more operators and support crew for Landing assisting flight performance and Navigation, needs large number of crews to operates a Single UCAV. as per DRDO inputs the UCAV can capable to fly at the heights of 30,000 feet and Maximum take off weight estimated 15 tons.

As per the concept are the UCAV is lack of good maneuverability which can allow the fighter to fight against enemy Fighter Jets and land based SAM units. but the future version can comes with good maneuverability, since DRDO’s first effort of making UCAV to world standard.

The DRDO partnered with ADA and HAL makes the first prototype of  AURA, since the project is close guarded secret the Correct time line and informations are not yet available on the Public, except the above informations. if the program gives first prototype by next two to three years, it’s be sure that IAF can induct those unmanned fighters before 2025.

While India has an array of UAVs to monitor its sensitive borders, it has definitely taken up the challenge of advanced defence and attack systems in the context of the modern network centric warfare scenario. With highly advanced drones in the west like ‘Predators’ armed with precision-guided missiles, India will also be equipped with its indigenous combative smart drone in the near future. Meanwhile, the Indian defence ministry is also keeping an eye out for procurement of UCAVs from the overseas market. A Request for Information for the combat UAVs was issued last year, but the Request for Proposal is pending.



As per official information sourced from Annual report of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) compiled together by on India’s Ghatak UCAV project, Preliminary Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) by Indian Air Force Head Quarters was finalised on 10th June 2016.

The government of India has sanctioned Rs.231.00 crores on 13th May 2016 to carry out “Design of GHATAK and Development of Critical Advanced Technologies for GHATAK and AMCA”. Major technologies to be developed under this lead-in project are broadly classified under five technology areas are defined below.

a) Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
(b) Autonomous flight control technologies
(c) Aerodynamics and Propulsion technologies
(d) Stealth computations,measurements, structures & materials.

The model of SWiFT is presently undergoing wind tunnel tests at IIT Kanpur . DRDO chief Dr. S. Christopher has said , “Nobody will share the technologies that go into Ghatak. And that’s the reason why we have committed to building every piece of technology that will make this a proven stealth unmanned combat aircraft. Whatever beating we have got so far will be nullified. The day when technologies are denied, I can say I have my own.We are in the process of making the 1:1 model so that we can prove our RCS reduction capability via shaping and materials. We’ve got five labs working on the material side, while the airframe is completed by ADA. And that is what we are physically making because shape is most important. Shaping is 70 per cent of the signature reduction process. We’ve got an Outdoor Radar Cross Section Test Measurement facility (ORANGE) in Hyderabad which will test the model.”

While SWiFT would be a tech demonstrator , Ghatak will be the real thing to wait for since it is first independent effort by India to build an unmanned combat air platform.

Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) are envisaged for complex missions where several types of aircraft and ground and Naval Forces may be present. The UCAV (Project GHATAK) around modified KAVERI dry engine and stealth technology is being taken up on a fast track.

The objective of SWiFT (Stealth wing Flying Testbed) is to develop a flying wing test bed to demonstrate capabilities and technologies for future UCAV.

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