SWiFT UAV – India’s Stealth Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator completed its first flight test

Technology Demonstrator SWiFT UAV is a scaled-down variation of Ghatak UCAV project.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

The stealth wing flying testbed, or SWiFT, a technology demonstrator developed as part of India’s covert unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme, has attained a new milestone.

At the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, the demonstrator constructed as part of the programme successfully finished its first flight test today, July 1.

The aircraft demonstrated a flawless flight while operating in a fully autonomous mode, including takeoff, waypoint navigation, and a soft touchdown, according to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) release. The flight is a significant step toward self-reliance in such important defence technologies and marks a significant milestone for demonstrating key technologies for the development of future unmanned aircraft, says the release.

Retractable landing gear solutions were reportedly given to SWiFT by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, a DRDO facility with a location in Chennai.

The DRDO stated that it had finished developing the program’s landing gear and was working on manufacturing the airworthy components in a technology bulletin published in October 2020.

“Technology Demonstrator SWiFT UAV is a scaled-down variation of Ghatak UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle). SWiFT UAV’s primary goal is to demonstrate and validate high-speed landing and stealth technology in autonomous mode,” DRDO has stated.

The Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, which is participating in the foundational research and testing connected to the stealth UCAV programme, recently uploaded a video lecture including a model of this platform.

It was most likely a “flying model or mockup of the SWiFT.”

This model, which was positioned in the background as an IIT Kanpur professor gave a lecture in the institution’s Aeromodelling Lab, allowed viewers to observe the Ghatak’s undercarriage and landing gear.

Ghatak is designed to be an autonomous aircraft that may be used for both observation and the precise aiming of weapons at predetermined targets while avoiding detection by adversary sensors in contested airspace.

The Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) and numerous other labs of the Defence Research and Development Organization are working with the Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency to create the UCAV.

Around 2009, work began on the project, formerly known as AURA (short for Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft).

According to sources, the Ghatak initiative was officially approved as a “Lead-in Project” in May 2016 and began getting money at the beginning of 2017.

The UCAV project’s technical specifications are unavailable due to its secret status. The National Security Advisor (NSA) and the Prime Minister’s Office have direct control over the covert programme.

What is SWiFT UAV?

Technology Demonstrator SWiFT UAV is a scaled-down variation of the Ghatak UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle). The primary goals of the SWiFT UAV are to show and validate high-speed landing and stealth technology in autonomous mode. DRDO. The UAV is powered by an NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine which is to be replaced with a 52-kilonewton dry variant derivative of the Indian Kaveri engine.

In 2020, the DRDO declared that manufacturing of the project’s airway components had begun and that it had finished developing the project’s landing gear.

According to sources, the Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment of the DRDO has recently transferred the retracting landing gear systems.

All you need to know

A technology demonstrator known as the Stealth Wing Flying Testbed was created as part of what is said to be India’s extremely top-secret unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme.

Due to its secret classification, many of its technical details and specifications are still unknown. The national security advisor and the prime minister’s office are directly monitoring the project.

What do we currently understand?

The ambitious project, formerly known as AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft), which is a component of India’s fifth-generation stealth fighter Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), was conceptualised in 2009. 

The Bangalore-based ADA (aeronautical development agency) has worked on the ongoing project in conjunction with the Defence Electronics Application Laboratory and other relevant departments of the DRDO.

Although there are no official dates for this, it appears that the taxi experiments were done in the Aeronautical Test Range near Challakere in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district two months ago.

ADE Ghatak UCAV wind tunnel test model - SWiFT UAV is TD of Ghatak UCAV.
ADE Ghatak UCAV wind tunnel test model

The initial testing of the prototype (SWiFT), intended to develop technologies for the final Ghatak UAV, was started by the DRDO in June 2021. The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is creating the autonomous, stealthy Ghatak unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) primarily as a stealth bomber for the Indian Air Force.

The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE 1-ton )’s weight class retractable landing gear for SWiFT has already received certification from the Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).

SWiFT is estimated to measure around 13 feet long with a wingspan of little more than 16 feet and weigh about 2,300 pounds.

Maj Gen. Rajan Kochhar (Retd) opined that in today’s modern Warfare, stealth technology is considered a force multiplier. We must remember one of the important principles of Warfare is surprise and deception, and therefore adoption of stealth as also a part of this principle would contribute greatly to the combat effectiveness of the forces. The UCAV programme is a feather in the cap of DRDO, having successfully demonstrated this technology. The further amalgamation of this technology with AI would strengthen it further. In future, we could expand its reach from UAVs to fifth-generation stealth fighters giving an impetus to our Make in India prowess. 

On the other hand, Defence analyst Lt Col. JS Sodhi (Retd) said that the Swift UCAV has immense benefits for the Indian military as it will be a game-changer in Modern Warfare. Drones have been used extensively and effectively in the Armenia-Azerbaijan war of 2020 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Drones are going to play a pivotal role in any modern war, and India’s success in testing the Swift UCAV will give additional impetus to India’s security architecture as India is located in a precarious geopolitical location with two hostile neighbours on its western and eastern borders.


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