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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Unmanned, Aircraft Carrier-borne Indian Aircraft! - Floating Trial Balloons?

For the very first time, a high ranking Indian official makes mentions of this project in public.

Dr. VK Saraswat, Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation [DRDO], who is also the Chief Scientific Advisor to India's Defence Minister, delivered the inaugural talk at the Aero India 2013 Seminar, organised as part of the biennial air show. During his talk, he mentioned, in passing, an "Unmanned Carrier System" [UCS]. Since the focus of his talk was Aeronautics, one can safely infer that he was referring to an unmanned aircraft capable of operating from an Aircraft Carrier. The manner in which he mentions it, leads one to conclude that the programme, as of today. is in the most nebulous stages of conception, one that has been initiated as an in-house venture, possibly just completed an 'internal feasibility study'. Some way away from reaching the Government, seeking approval to pursue development officially.

Nevertheless, the mere prospect of such a project being undertaken in India is a huge & exciting development, especially given the present status of the manned aircraft programmes. Considering the long lead time a project of such magnitude would entail & gestation period for the required technologies to mature, a present date for its initiation would make great sense. Given that he mentioned it in the same breath as India's second fifth generation fighter programme, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft [AMCA], one has to assume this Carrier-capable UAV too would be weaponised, an Indian equivalent of the  X-47 UCAV - a major leapfrog in technology, in keeping with trends as envisaged for the future of warfare.

An interesting talk, he delivered at the seminar, where he broached on the numerous technologies that need to be developed and manufacturing processes that need to be acquired to fulfil requirements of India's military programme. Two that stand out most prominently are 'optical interconnect', also referred to as 'Fly-By-Light' in Aeronautics as well as artificial 'neural networking'. Basically, beyond 'fifth generation'.

Unlike his previous gung-ho demeanour, this time around he has been more guarded, recognising shortfalls in meeting indigenisation & production assurances. His case for asking the private sector industries to make capital-intensive investment, to get into defence production, however, is not helped by the predicament faced by those that have done, only to find no government contracts coming their way. One has no hesitation in stating that there is a clear conflict of interest when the government has to allocate work, choosing either between a privately-owned company or one that it itself owns.

A fine talk to start off, what promise to be an enlightening series of talks. He refers to the UCS at around 5 minutes into the video.


Related: Stealth version of India's Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas, Mk. 3 on the cards