India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADE) and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will jointly develop an air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (ALUAV).
A Project Agreement (PA) was signed between the India Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defence under Defence Technology & Trade Initiative (DTTI) on August 30, an Indian MoD announcement said.
The project is valued at more than $22 million with costs shared equally, and marks the largest-ever defense Research, Development, Test and Evaluation collaboration between the United States and India, a USAF release said.
The agreement marks a major uplift in Indo-US military relations. India moves up from being a a net buyer of American military gear to a joint developer- a status which the US gives to its closest and technologically advanced allies such as Israel, UK and Japan.
The PA outlines the collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory, Indian Air Force, and Defence Research and Development Organisation towards design, development, demonstration, testing and evaluation of systems to co-develop an ALUAV Prototype.
The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) at DRDO and the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), along with the Indian and US Air Forces, are the principal organisations for execution of PA.
The agreement was signed by the co-chairs of the Joint Working Group Air Systems under DTTI, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari from the Indian Air Force and Director, Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate Brigadier General Brian R. Bruckbauer from the US Air Force.
At Aero India 2021, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had displayed an air launched UAV concept that will be controlled by the Light Combat Aicraft. It is purpose is to go beyond the range of the LCA to drop a bomb or missile and conduct reconnaissance.
The Indo-US ALUAV project could be inspired from AFRL's own Skyborg teaming drone program.
The AFRL has an aerial launched UAV program called Skyborg - an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.
The program aims to deliver unmatched combat capability per dollar by lowering the barriers to entry for industry and allowing continuous hardware and software innovation in acquisition, fielding and sustainment of critical mission systems.
During this effort, AFRL will prototype a suite of autonomy and unmanned system technologies equipped with capabilities that can support a range of Air Force missions.