The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has taken a significant step in fortifying its capabilities for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development. DRDO has extended the runway at the Chitradurga Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) by an additional kilometre, thereby bringing the total length to approximately 3.13 km.
This expansion is not only aimed at accommodating testing for larger High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Class UAVs but also aligns with DRDO’s ambitious plan to cater to the evolving requirements of the Indian Armed Forces.
The Chitradurga ATR stands as a dedicated establishment for conducting flight tests of DRDO’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, with a special focus on those belonging to the Rustom family of UAVs. The Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201 (TAPAS BH-201), affectionately known as Rustom-2 UAV, achieved remarkable success during its flight test at the Challakere ATR back in November 2016.
Notably, the TAPAS BH-201 program has traversed considerable strides in its developmental flight trials and is poised to embark on user trials soon. Eager anticipation surrounds DRDO, as it may receive orders for a substantial 97 units of this cutting-edge UAV once the user trials conclude in the coming year.
With the augmented runway facility at Chitradurga ATR, DRDO finds itself admirably positioned to forge ahead with the development and rigorous testing of the larger HALE Class UAVs. These sophisticated UAVs hold immense strategic significance for the Indian Armed Forces, offering a myriad of advantages such as heightened endurance, extended range, and unparalleled surveillance capabilities.
It is also worth highlighting that the enhanced infrastructure of the facility will be judiciously utilized for future testing of jet-powered Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs).
A glimpse into the DRDO’s pipeline of projects reveals the existence of the ultra-secretive Stealth Wing Flying Testbed (SWIFT) UAV, a scaled-down version of the Ghatak stealth UCAV. Currently undergoing testing as a technological demonstrator, SWIFT eagerly awaits the final clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security.
Additionally, the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) is preparing to embark on the testing phase for Archer-NG, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Class Armed UAV, scheduled to take place at the Chitradurga ATR later this year.
Furthermore, ADE has diligently undertaken a feasibility report for the development of larger HALE Class UAVs, addressing the evolving requisites of the Indian Armed Forces. These advanced UAVs are poised to accomplish an extensive array of tasks, encompassing surveillance, target acquisition, and providing invaluable support to ground forces.