HAL's indigenous 'Warrior Drone' and its role in future warfare, explained

HAL's new drone, called Warrior, is part of an indigenous program called CATS or Combat Air Teaming System, described as 'a composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms which work together to penetrate heavily defended enemy airspace.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Feb 02, 2021 11:51 IST
HAL's indigenous 'Warrior Drone' and its role in future warfare, explained
HAL Warrior Drone

A full-scale replica of India's first-ever semi-stealth drone, now under development, will be showcased at Aero India, which kicks off in Bengaluru later this week. The drone, called Warrior, is part of an indigenous program called CATS or Combat Air Teaming System, which is a composite amalgamation of manned and unmanned platforms that work together to penetrate heavily defended hostile airspace.

In simple terms, the Warrior drone is being designed to operate with an LCA Tejas combat aircraft flown by an IAF pilot, which it will defend and fight with as they go into combat together. The first Warrior prototypes are expected to fly within three to five years and is being funded by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

As per defense experts, multiple drones can be commanded by a single Tejas. The idea is to maximize 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.

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The Tejas and drones together can identify and destroy targets with the help of AWACS through advanced  Data Linking and also with the help of satellite platforms. 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' because of its low RCS, hence it will be difficult to track.

Currently, HAL, which has been working on drone warfare concepts for more than five years, is working towards the design, development, and integration of key subsystems of Warrior. The IAF and the Indian Navy, the eventual users of the platform, will need to re-shape their operational techniques around the concept of 'combat-teaming' to effectively integrate the use of a manned and unmanned platform

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

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Being designed with HAL by Newspace Research and Technologies, a Bengaluru firm, the ALFA-S may not have any competitor around the world. The drones can be housed on a unique carrier, which is mounted on a Jaguar fighter bomber. The carrier separates from the Jaguar, glides for approximately 100-plus kilometers before releasing the propeller-powered swarm drones which engage their targets.

According to HAL official sources, "The ALFA-S drones are programmed with algorithms to seek and destroy enemy surface to air missiles, aircraft on the ground, and other ground targets. The unique nature of the platform gives it an export potential for friendly nations," 

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