India’s UCAV To Fly In 2015, Says DRDO. High Hopes?

Artist’s impression / Anurag Rana
India’s concept AURA stealth UCAV could complete prototyping by end 2013, make its first flight in 2015 and enter service in 2017, a senior DRDO scientist has told The Indian Express. Now, either that’s a pang of breathtaking optimism, or the DRDO is actually working it. To put it gently, timelines have never been the DRDO’s strongest suit, and the target indicated suggests that the AURA (officially only called Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle – USAV, and first revealed here on Livefist) will fly well before India’s Tejas Mk.2 and AMCA manned fighter jets. To be sure, very little is actually known about the AURA/USAV apart from the fact that it is being developed as a flying-wing stealth design, and is expected to be powered by a modified version of the Snecma/Kaveri turbofan engine. Most current circumstances indicate that it is highly unlikely that a 2015 first flight is possible, though the secret nature of the programme may just suggest things we don’t know yet. I’ll say this: I’d be the happiest person on earth if I get to eat my words, but I won’t be holding my breath just yet.

37 thoughts on “India’s UCAV To Fly In 2015, Says DRDO. High Hopes?”

  1. Hi Shiv,

    Would this not mean, that, the indigenous defence satcom network for such a system needs to be already in place? Any update on this front? Or is this already ready and deployed?

    But, yes, it will be truly unbelievable if they really deploy this system in the said time-line.

  2. May the scientist is speaking of Rustom-II…plz confirm it….bcoz i have read the report all that the scientist says is armed drone…

  3. i dont have much hope eithr, But with test launch of agni V in 2 years time there might be a silver lighting


  4. sound very very nice to my ears but the actual fact is that we had heard similarly about Tejas , the kaveri , but even if it gets to air by 2015 don't know how much technological capable will it be

  5. shiv, whats going on? your posts are getting more like status updates of the indian defence world. the only well researched and well analyzed post you did was the post of Geopollitcs plagiarizing your work. We follow your blog because of your great past articles that were very much unlike your new ones. Hope you can get back there….

  6. My interpreation of "…..To Fly in 2015…" is "to fly not prior to 2015…" My interpretation is based on the fact that DRDO/ HAL/ NAL etc. have never met a deadline they assigned themselves, over and over again. Please do not get me wrong, they have achieved a lot and they will make the UCAV and get it flying, but it may not happen by the end of 2015. DRDO and it's partners need to stop assigning any deadlines as it only makes them look like fool, which they aren't. What they need now is a real PR support to ensure that communications are consistent and only provide sufficient information at given time.

  7. isn't that a little optimistic no offence but the drdo has not given us atleast a MALE/HALE drone and even the manned one's have not come.
    But i think it might be the armed version of the rustum 2….

  8. WOW new hit job from your sister org India Today on the DRDO. After the VKS episode by your buddy Sandeep Unnithan now comes this, India Today is rapidly going down the TOI-let way. Keep it up or shall I say keep it down !

  9. well it might ..consider coop from russian like Pj10 or Barak-8 with Israeli. DRDO might have left out the partners name.

    i just had another rq170 sentinel had fallen in our buddy Irans backyard …do you think ???
    they are our buddies we suddenly defying the US for them

  10. To get the plane up flying by 2015 isnt a big deal for DRDO as we have seen LCA was ready for flight very soon too once the programs really got the funding but what after flying.. just something which flies isnt the final product what our defences want. May be 2020 since lot of experience from LCA is gonna go in it.

  11. I don't understand why DRDO scientists just can't keep quiet. Just stay focused and start delivering. If they lament that media paints a bleak picture of them, it's because of their own fault. Why at all give timelines that may or may not hold later because of the project complexities involved.
    Don't know why they are so fond of giving sound bytes to media which naturally will hole them for any slip-ups unintentional or otherwise. Let your end user sing praises for you once you have delivered. If it were to me I would put a strict gag order on DRDO starting from the top i.e. Dr. V. K. Saraswat. We tell too much and too soon. This needs to stop.

  12. Based on required infrastructure, sensors, sensor integration, miniaturization and flight control software requirements, it sounds like someone is smoking some good stuff from Idukki.

  13. the terminator

    DRDO has done a great job where the missile programme is concerned. Congratulations!

    Other than that DRDO has not met timelines or delivery schedules of any of its major projects which are languishing miserably.

    My humble suggestion to DRDO is speak less especially to the press but do more. No point in broadcasting to the world 5 or 10 years in advance about some super-duper project which is still on the drawing board while projects that have been ongoing for decades have not been delivered to the nation. Blowing your own trumpet is still childish even if it is part of psychological warfare. Enemies are not that easily fooled. Such declarations only give away future projects which may be in the pipeline. Enemies with enough capital, R&D facilities and other resources such as an active industrial espionage system could easily latch on the envisaged programme and make it long before we initiate it.

    Lest DRDO is categorized as an empty barrel making a lot of incoherent noise, the less said the better.

    Secret, sensitive and strategic projects should remain as such until they are actually in service with the stakeholders.

  14. @11:27 What's the hit job about? We've got DRDO's record in front of us with the Tejas, Kaveri. You better listen to what the service chiefs think of DRDO's job with the Tejas (both Air Force and Naval chiefs by the way) before putting your blind faith in the DRDO. The only program where it seems to have had decent success is in the missile program, possibly due to the piggybacking over ISRO's success over the decades.

    This kind of blind hero worship is such a characteristic of India. While there have been successes, there have been tremendous wasteage and failures too. I'm not against failure but sticking your head in the sand and being in denial is ridiculous.

  15. Shiv's job is to report by looking at all things in perspective. And that's the reason I come back here. If he has to keep singing the praises of DRDO while ignoring it's miserable failures, he'll be nothing but your glorified PR DRDO spokesperson.

  16. DRDO is confident now, with A-V they have for first time demonstrated that they can also complete project withing timeline. So there is a solid reason for confidence.

    These are only two road blocks to first flight to my understanding; SAT-Links and Senecma-Kaveri turbofan. Out of two very little is known about SAT-LINK but their claim to have developed SATCOM for CABS AEW&C speaks of solid ground and gives enough reason to believe that they can have system ready in next three years. To SNECMA-GTRE Kaveri Turbofan engine. This to me is overly optimistic claim as nothing as of today is on ground all that is talks talks and further talks with SNECMA. However if ADE is talking about using present K-9 which is said to have demonstrated 81 KN wet then i would differ and wait with fingers crossed.

  17. During my time at IIT Kanpur (2005-2009) I have seen flight parameters tests & simulations being conducted for 2-3 flying wing designs very similar to this under a project from ADA.
    Considering that it was the case 2-3 years back, it is likely that the project could be at a very advanced stage now.

  18. Extremely high hopes. I'd prefer if DRDO prioritised the LCA in the next 5 years. Their focus should be to churn out 100+ aircraft for the Airforce / 25 for the Navy and make the program profitable.

    Make no sense in sailing through unchatered territory.

  19. My take on this piece of news is different from other posts so far. There is no offer as yet from any foreign organisation for such equipment. What DRDO is probably saying is that they will focus on such projects, as they have some confidence that the 'customer' / 'user' will co-operate.

  20. ek aur deadline only for violating!!! mere bhai pehle purane projects complete karo uske baad media me naye dhol bajana…

  21. Designers should be ready in advance to cater for 25% increase in power, 20% increase in weapon load, 10% increase in operational ceiling height, 10% increase in wing area, 5% increase in stealth, 5% increase in radar range without decreasing the speed and T/W ratio.

  22. anon @ 9:38 am: I'm an ardent critic of DRDO because they just can't keep their mouth shut before completing projects, but I also do believe that in delivery DRDO has turned corner especially in the last decade or so. Many projects that have been long pending are on the verge of completion.
    The reason that article was called a hit job is because of it's timing coming in the wake of success of DRDO's and India's most critical project. The importance of this test was next only to 1998 POK-2 and you can see who among the P-5 has been barking the most.
    The way the facts have been twisted around and mis-represented by the authors and by using sound bytes from disgruntled old farts of the services thereby painting a completely one-sided story makes it a instantly suspect.
    Many of these old farts have been grumbling and trying to pass off their own inability to plan procurements ahead and define project GSQRs/ASQRs/NSQRs sufficiently ahead of time for their services and with bad apples within their own ranks upsetting acquisition timelines with their vested interests and with the un-helpful and "don't give a damn" MOD in the loop, they appear all too eager to blame it all on DRDO.

    Just one example the article talks of DRDO being responsible for delays in the EMB-145I AEW project. You can find out for yourself how much sweet time did the air-farce took in deciding and giving its green signal to CABS in finalizing the EMB as the AESA radar platform. But DRDO conveniently gets the blame in this article. Another famous one, the LCA project, the project was started only in 1995 and not in 1983 like people in TOI-let love to state again and again and then what happens, we go nuclear and all equipment is seized by the americans and you have to start from the scratch, but of course DRDO is at fault and "30 yrs on, 25000 crore down the drain" bull shit goes on and on in the media. As long as the services act as laat-sahib customers with no sense of end -user product ownership projects will languish. You are entitled to your opinion and so am I so I stand by my assertion that the IT article was a hit job done to malign and de-moralise DRDO.

  23. For anon @ 9:38,
    And O btw, in a brilliant self goal our politico-babus long back decided to firewall our space and missile progs from each other.
    You will do well to remember that we have been launching PSLVs since 1993 which use one of the world's largest solid rocket boosters which uses SITVC for pitch, yaw and roll control. On 26th when launch another one of them do watch closely on the plot board the parameter called down range and compare for yourself the range of A-5 which we just launched about a week back.
    While it's true our 1st gen Agni TD which essentially tested re-entry technology and not propulsion way back in 1989 was indeed derived from SLV-3 1st stage because of the internal firewall we have taken way too much time to come upto A-5 range levels.
    If our Agni had indeed piggy backed on even as much as the PSLV 1st stage, looking at the final downrange numbers I'll let you guess what our Agni ranges we would have had by now ! Not only the ding-dongs but even the Yankees would have been crapping by now.
    So your assertion there is not correct either!

  24. It is definately a difficult project. I am very proud of these men and women for taking on this project.

    After what I have seen from them, I have now become a believer in them. Good luck to them.

  25. @5:38 you are kidding about ISRO and DRDO right? Kalam started at DRDO, then was transferred to ISRO where he was the project director of the SLV in ISRO following which he led the IGMDP. If you think there is absolutely no linkage between the missile and space programs then you are living in a fool's paradise. IISc was sanctioned following POK2 by the US. Everybody who needs to know, knows what goes on here, you put a little facade of distance between the civilian and defence programs but everyone who's in the business knows you'll have scientists working together, er.. just like our ex-president APJ Kalam.

    I would be the first to say we Indians can be short-sighted at times, but even we are not that dumb to not leverage what we learn from ISRO into the missile program.

    Not to take any credit away from DRDO scientists, they have done a pretty awesome job given the constraints, but if you think DRDO's missile program has nothing to do with ISRO, just ask APJ.

  26. Good luck to the AURA/USAV project team. It will be great if they can execute the project in time and come up with an end product that appeals to the defence forces.

    Best wishes,


  27. anon @ 1:51 pm looks like you did not read this:
    "While it's true our 1st gen Agni TD which essentially tested re-entry technology and not propulsion way back in 1989 was indeed derived from SLV-3 1st stage…."
    And "IISc was sanctioned following POK2 by the US." ? !!
    What non-sense is that ? please do care to explain ! Lest you forget that all LCA DFCC equipment was seized and scientist were thrown out of LM facility immediately after POK-2

  28. In 5 years DRDO will talk about delays in the AURA project pushing it behind by another decade. It doesnt cost much to make loose statements. Indians have no value for word and very short memory.

  29. It would be in DRDO and India's best interest for DRDO to adopt a public-private partnership model. Considering the range of defence work coming up, there is enough work for everyone in DRDO and for private players to stay employed and make profits. I hope DRDO splits actual design work on upcoming and future projects with private players

  30. well its 2018 now :p
    there is a dialouge in telugu movie i may come late but i will come latest
    hope our swift is also latest

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