India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has earmarked INR 390 Crore ($53.5 Million) in the CATS Warrior stealth attack drone that will team up with a "mother ship," - a light combat aircraft (LCA), enter enemy territory, drop munitions and return to base.
The stealth drone can carry up to 4 munitions including runway destroying bombs, cruise missiles and other payloads. It has the option of flying 350 km into enemy territory guided by the mother ship, drop its missile and return to base or go as far as 700 km, complete its mission and fall to earth as it runs out of fuel.
HAL's director R & D, Arup Chatterjee told Defenseworld.net that detailed design work has begun on the three separate components that comprise the CATS system - Warrior (Teaming drone), CATS Hunter (air-launched cruise missile) and Alpha-S (glider drone). All three are controlled by the pilot from the mothership via a secure data links, and equipped with electro-optical and infrared sensors. Each drone can be made to select separate targets.
The CATS Warrior system will be developed by HAL using its own funds, an approval for which has already been secured from the company's board. Once the proof of concept is ready it will be shown to Indian Air Force which will be customer for this system, Chatterjee said.
The drone system should be ready for first flight by 2024-25 and the mothership integration a year or two latter.
The LCA Tejas or the Jaguar Darin III will be the choice as "mother ships" though any other airplane can be converted into a mothership.
One major component of the both the Warrior and Hunter - the engine is already with HAL- the PTAE-7 engine developed over a decade ago for the "Lakshya" drone will be used. It is among the smallest jet engines developed anywhere in the world and can be adapted to the Warrior and Hunter will little modification, Chatterjee said.