BANGALORE: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) unveiled a blueprint of its plans to bring in such platforms during the ongoing Aero India show in Bangalore.

From striking deep behind enemy lines without bringing pilots and fighter jets close to detection by radars to replacing mules with helicopter drones for providing ration to troops at icy heights in Ladakh -- India is preparing for the next generation of warfare building indigenous capacities for unmanned platforms.

Private Indian companies and public sector units are working on such platforms that will be the key in military combat in years to come.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) unveiled a blueprint of its plans to bring in such platforms during the ongoing Aero India show in Bangalore.

CATS Warrior Drones

Modelled on US project Skyborg, HAL has started work on an ambitious project that will allow teaming up of unmanned aircraft and vehicles with manned jets.

Combined Air Teaming System or CATS will have a mother vehicle -- a fighter jet operating 700 km away and strike enemy targets through unmanned warriors.

The fighter jets guiding the unmanned drones can remain 150 km behind and control and give directions to four unmanned vehicles called the CATS Warriors.

The drones are expected to be integrated on TEJAS and Jaguar fighter jets.

The first prototypes are expected to fly in the next three to four years. Capable of evading radar detection, its stealth capacities will make it even more potent.

"We are developing the project where the manned aircraft will operate within the boundary and the unmanned aircraft will enter the enemy zone and can carry out strikes deep inside the enemy territory," said Arup Chatterjee, director (Engineering and R&D) at HAL.

Calling it a "dream project" of HAL, he said this is aimed at futuristic warfare.

"It can straightway hit the target at a distance of 700 kilometres or can go to 350 kilometres and come back," Chatterjee said.

Other than the unmanned combat vehicle, the main fighter aircraft will be integrated with armed drones -- CATS Hunter and CATS Alpha.

CATS Alpha is a glider and will be able to carry four, eight, 16, or 24 swarm drones. Alpha has can glide 50 to 100 km into the enemy territory and carry out a swarm drone attack.

Drones being unleashed in a bunch is a tactic called swarm drone technology. Not only are these drones light weighted and low cost, but the high-tech artificial intelligence enables these to be crucial in future warfare.

Swarm drones can create havoc as it is part of deception warfare with radars or air defence systems often unable to pick up the multiple UAVs.

Drone Helicopter

Other unmanned warfare tools part of future planning are the Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or RUAV200 a helicopter drone meant for hostile zones above 15,000 feet.

The Ladakh tension with China has led to a realisation that new technologies in such areas are the way forward. Surveillance, reconnaissance, and providing essentials to troops in harsh conditions would the key objectives of this helicopter drone.

"It can operate up to 18,000 feet and will replace mules that carry ration and material for troops at forwards locations," said R Madhavan, chairman, HAL.

Weighing 200kg, it can carry payloads of up to 30kg to a range of 100 km.

It will be able to airdrop to base camps in tough mountainous terrains 3-4 times a day and can also double up for surveillance missions. The first flight is expected by June next year.

Army's Own Anti-Drone Capabilities

The Indian Army has developed its own anti-drone capabilities recently, not depending on other manufacturers.

With these and other anti-drone capabilities like jammers manufactured by the Indian Army to detect and bring down quadcopters, preparations are on for warfare based on artificial intelligence.

The enhanced quadcopter jamming system has a range of 3.5 km and has already been deployed at various locations on the Line of Control. "They were recently operationalised and can detect and neutralise a quadcopter," said an army official.