MQ-9B "Reaper" taking-off from a Landing Platform Dock

The Indian Navy successfully tested the landing and take-off of an Indian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from the deck of its indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. This is the first time the Indian Navy has tested a naval UAV from an indigenous aircraft.

The landing has been done at the beginning of this year but it was been kept under wraps by the Navy officials. The Indian Navy has been quietly ramping up its drone capability.

The indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which has achieved its full operational status and will be deployed for Milan naval wargames in February 2024.

Indian Navy  has been developing aerial designs for Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) to accommodate UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles), and uncrewed fighter jets.

The Indian Navy inducted UAVs for sea operations in the 2000s with two variants of fixed-wing UAVs  namely Searcher and Heron.

Meanwhile, indigenously developed Navy's TEJAS undertook its maiden landing on board aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in February 2023. It has been described as a 'historical milestone' for India's self-reliance in defence manufacturing.  It said the landing demonstrated India's capability to design, develop, construct and operate indigenous aircraft carriers with indigenous fighter aircraft.

The INS Vikrant is 262 meters long, 62 meters wide, and displaces about 40,000 metric tons. It has a flight deck that measures 12,500 square meters, which is equivalent to 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. The INS Vikrant has a maximum speed of 28 knots, an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of 1,600.

The Indian Navy is using the project to understand and evaluate USV swarm capabilities for practical exploitation. If successful, the order could run into higher numbers.