|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.