Can DRDO’s Rustom-2 (UCAV) fire missiles?
DRDO’s Rustom-2 (also known as TAPAS 201) is a prop driven UAV, somewhat similar to drones like the MQ 9 Reaper,Rustom 2 will carry out surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours, officials said.Rustom 2 is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads like synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems and situational awareness payloads, officials said.
Nonetheless, according to DRDO they have integrated the locally developed anti-tank missile HELINA with the Rustom 1. News18 had even released a picture of a Rustom-1 carrying 2 Helina missiles during taxi trails . Whether those missiles were fired or not was not explained.
While Rustom-2 is essentially a C4ISR platform, if weapon trials on Rustom-1 are successful it’s possible that Rustom-2 can also be configured to fire missiles like the HELINA. As of now just two-three flight test of the Rustom-2 has taken place and it will require several successful flight tests before it gets all the required certification. IOW, unless and until the production version of the Rustom-2 is ready we will not know if it has the ability to fire air to ground missiles. In fact even the Indian Ministry of Defence in the Press Release (Nov-16–2016) related to the Rustom-2 states
“TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV is being developed to carry out the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three Armed Forces with an endurance of 24 hours. It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.”
Reports Suggest that Various weapons like SANT Standoff range Anti Tank Missile are being developed for Tapas 201 a.k.a. Rustom 2. Also payloads like a Synthetic Aperture Radar which is meant for long range scanning and observation of ground plus various Electro-Optic payload are developed.
DRDO has accelerate the Tapas BH-201 (Rustom II) program and now plans to expand the envelope of the flight trials and increasing the range, altitude, and endurance in the second half of this year in which all the payloads, imported as well indigenous, will be flight tested.
To meet the immediate requirement of the programme, An imported Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) payload has been used but the development of an indigenous ELINT is completed and is undergoing flight trials with EMBRAER aircraft. Indigenous development of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload for the Drone already is in an advanced stage with one prototype undergoing flight trials and evaluation in Dornier manned aircraft and the indigenously developed medium-range electro-optic payload is already developed and been successfully flight tested.
Also Indigenous 180 hp Diesel turboprop engine is suitable for small aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and will replace imported Saturn 36T turboprop engines procured from Russia to power Rustom-2 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
According to Industrial sources, Indigenous 180 hp Diesel turboprop engine main advantage is low weight, better fuel efficiency and is specifically designed for the category of ultra-light manned and unmanned aerial vehicles like MALE Class drones. New Diesel turboprop engine is designed for use in both push and pull configurations and is likely to be used on other programs also.
Once Inducted Rustom-2 will be an asset for Armed forces because they can use for surveillance or they can use it as unmanned armed combat vehicle. When a target is identified, it will either illuminate the target with a laser designate for other strike aircraft or attack the with the help of its own Surface to Air missiles.
In contrast to Rustom-I, the next generation version is equipped with enhanced aerodynamic configuration, digital flight control, navigation system, communication intelligence, medium and long-range electro-optic payloads and synthetic aperture radar that will enable it to see through the clouds.
The capability of automatic takeoff and landing makes it comparable to some of the best in the world.Once fully ready, the Rustom UAVs will replace Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicles being used by the air force and the navy.
The team developing the Rustom-2 has faced weight reduction and systems issues, resulting in delay in its debut flight by over two years. It will now undergo through a rigorous phase of flight trials.
The advanced version of Rustom-II will include greater endurance and service ceiling, in addition to the ability to deploy a wider variety of weapons. The Indian Army, IAF, Navy and Coast Guard have all expressed strong interest in the Rustom-II, though firm orders will clearly only land during advanced flight testing.
Image Credits to Tarmak007