A drone that can team up with fighter jets to carry munitions into heavily defended enemy skies will be on display at Aero India 2021. The 'Warrior' is being developed to go into combat as a loyal wingman drone with existing manned fighter jets

The Warrior aircraft, a full scale model of which will be showcased at the event, is India’s first ever semi-stealth drone. It is built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as part of an indigenous programme called Combat Air Teaming System (CATS). The first Warrior prototypes are expected to fly within 3-5 years.

HAL has been working on drone warfare concepts for over 5 years now. It is presently working towards the design, development and integration of key subsystems of Warrior.

HAL's Warrior drone: Image @Vayu Aerospace Review

The Warrior drone is being designed to operate with TEJAS fighter. "Multiple Warriors will be commanded by a single Tejas," said a source close to the project.

The idea is to maximise the effectiveness of every mission while reducing the potential of losing the lives of precious pilots since they would be accompanied by the drones which would protect them. "The Warrior is being armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles," which would be used to hit targets on the ground or in the air.

The Warrior, while not an out-and-out stealth platform, which would allow it to evade being picked up by radar, is classified 'low observable', which makes its detection challenging for contemporary systems.

CATS project aircraft @Vayu Aerospace Review

The Hunter drone is a part of a series of new designs which are in the process of being designed and developed. This includes the Hunter cruise missile, designed to hit targets more than 200 km away and a swarm drone system called ALFA-S designed to hone in on multiple targets which it identifies through artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology which allows the weapon to discriminate between possible targets, the report said.

ALFA-S drones are housed on a unique carrier, mounted on a Jaguar fighter bomber. The carrier separates from the Jaguar, glides for ~100km before releasing the propeller-powered swarm drones which engage their targets. These drones are programmed with algorithms to seek and destroy enemy surface to air missiles, aircraft on the ground and other ground targets.