The first flight of India’s new combat-capable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Rustom-II is scheduled to be held by the end of July in Chitradurga test flight range.
Scientists at the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) would move to the test range later this week for the trial as a window between July 28 and August 2 would be kept open for the flight in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Once ready, the medium-altitude, long-endurance (Male) UAV is likely to be an asset for the military not only for its surveillance capability, but also for its ability to be used as an unmanned armed combat vehicle in the line of the US’s Predator that New Delhi is interested to buy.
“Rustom-II is a very big platform with a range of 250 km. However, for the first flight we will be flying it up to a distance of 50-100 km,” said a source associated with the UAV’s development.
Compared to Rustom-I that was test flown for the first time in November 2009, Rustom-II will be having Electronic Intelligence, Communication Intelligence, Medium and Long-Range Electro-optic Payloads and Synthetic Aperture Radar that will enable it to see through the clouds.
“Rustom-I is a primitive vehicle with minimal capabilities. Rustom-II, on the other hand, has several capabilities, including the ability to carry weapons,” G Satheesh Reddy, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri.
Once fully ready, Rustom UAVs are meant to replace Israeli Heron unmanned aerial vehicles being used by the air force and the navy. The aircraft is named after former Indian Institute of Science professor Rustom Damania, who pioneered aviation research in India in the 1980s.
Addressing a seminar on UAV in Delhi last November, an ADE official stated that the three services initially projected a requirement of 76 of these platforms.
However, like many other defence research and development organisation (DRDO) projects, Rustom-II is also facing time overrun as the production schedule, first fixed for 2016, has now been pushed to 2017 with the possibility that it may get further delayed.
The biggest challenge faced by the scientists is the excess weight of the airframe. The airframe had a weight of about 2,400 kg by 2015 end, which ADE scientists would have to bring down to about 1,700 kg in the final version for accommodating every sensor package.
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bharat Electronics Ltd partners DRDO in the development of Rustom-II and has committed several hundred crores as financial support.
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