India’s loyal wingman project CATS Warrior to go airborne by 2024

A loyal wingman programme being developed by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is on schedule to see flight-testing by 2024.

It is Known as the Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) Warrior, the project began in 2018 and was showcased during Aero India 2021. CATS Warrior is a part of the HAL Combat Air Teaming System program.

The company described the Warrior as a twin-engined autonomous, unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). The aircraft is intended to operate behind or alongside manned fighter aircraft to protect their tails. The UCAV is being designed to attack aerial and ground targets.

According to an HAL source, the project has advanced since Aero India 2021.

“The CATS Warrior is currently in wind tunnel testing. Our original timetable for deployment was 2024–25 and we expect flight testing of the CATS Warrior to start in 2024,” the source told Janes.

According to Jane HAL has two indigenous engine options for the Warrior. One is HAL’s PTAE-7, a 400 kg, 3.43 kN single spool turbojet developed in the 1980s. The second is HTFE-25, a 25 kN turbofan under development by HAL.

Janes reported previously that the HTFE-25 has a twin-spool, mixed-flow, low bypass configuration. The low pressure spool consists of a three-stage low-pressure fan driven by single-stage low-pressure turbine, and the high pressure spool consists of a five-stage high-pressure compressor driven by a single-stage high-pressure turbine.

HAL CATS warrior
Various elemets of CATS warrior

The company said that it hopes to certify the engine by 2025.

“As the CATS Warrior is a twin-engined design, we believe that using two HTFE-25 engines will give the UCAV the necessary performance to match frontline combat aircraft,” the HAL source said.

India’s new ‘Warrior’ drone, which is part of the indigenous Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited along with the private sector, has been revealed at Aero India 2021.

HAL’s Warrior is being developed to go into combat as a loyal wingman drone with existing manned fighter jets like LCA Tejas and Rafale of the IAF to complement and maximise their effectiveness.

The drone, integrated with sensor packages, will be a force multiplier for the manned fighter, capable of performing surveillance, reconnaissance, and early warning missions to aid its mission.

The Warrior is part of the Combat Air Teaming System, which is “a composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms which work together to penetrate heavily defended enemy airspace.”

This manned-unmanned teaming system is under development in India, is being developed by the HAL along with private sector players. It is working on CATS Hunter, which will be capable of hitting targets at a range of 200 kilometres, and ALFA-S, with New Space Research & Technologies, a start-up based in Bengaluru.

ALFA-S, which was first unveiled as part of ‘Jaguar Max’ upgrade package in 2019, is a swarm drone system that can hone in on multiple targets.

The system comprises of drones housed in a carrier. This carrier, mounted on a fighter, is capable of gliding around 100 km before deploying the drones. These drones can hit enemy targets such as surface to air missiles sites and aircraft parked on the ground.

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