Archive for July, 2012

                          A scaled down version of AVATAR undergoing aero-elastic test.
A scaled down version of AVATAR undergoing aero-elastic test.
Function Unmanned reusable spaceplane technology demonstrator
Manufacturer DRDO/ISRO
Country of origin  India
Diameter N/A
Stages 1/2
Launch history
Status Under Development
Launch sites Satish Dhawan Space Centre
Total launches 0
First flight TBA

                                             AVATAR (Sanskrit: अवतार) (from “Aerobic Vehicle for Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation”) is a single-stage reusablespaceplane capable of horizontal takeoff and landing, being developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organizationalong with Indian Space Research Organization and other research institutions; it could be used for cheaper military and civiliansatellite launches.

When operational, it is planned to be capable of delivering a payload weighing up to 1,000 kg to low earth orbit. It would be the cheapest way to deliver material to space at about US$67/kg. Each craft is expected to withstand 100 launches.


The idea is to develop a hyperplane vehicle that can take off from conventional airfields, collect air in the atmosphere on the way up, liquefy it, separate oxygen and store it on board for subsequent flight beyond the atmosphere. The AVATAR RLV was first announced in May 1998 at the Aero India 98 exhibition held at Bangalore. It is planned to be the size of a MiG-25 fighter and would be capable of delivering a 500 kg to 1,000 kg payload to low earth orbit at very low cost for an estimated vehicle life of 100 launches.

AVATAR is proposed to weigh only 25 tonnes in which 60 per cent of mass will be liquid hydrogen fuel. The oxygen required by the vehicle for combustion is collected from the atmosphere, thus reducing the need to carry oxygen during launch. AVATAR is said to be capable of entering into a 100-km orbit in a single stage and launching satellites weighing up to one tonne.



AVATAR would take off horizontally like a conventional airplane from a conventional airstrip using turbo-ramjet engines that burn air and hydrogen. Once at a cruising altitude, the vehicle would use scramjet propulsion to accelerate from Mach 4 to Mach 8. During this cruising phase, an on-board system would collect air from the atmosphere, from which liquid oxygen would be separated and stored. The liquid oxygen collected then would be used in the final flight phase when the rocket engine burns the collected liquid oxygen and the carried hydrogen to attain orbit. The vehicle would be designed to permit at least a hundred re-entries into the atmosphere.

Dr. M R Suresh, a senior ISRO official, stated that, “The dream of making a vehicle which can take off from a runway like an aircraft, and to return to the runway after deploying the spacecraft in the desired orbit (or Single-stage-to-orbit or SSTO) can be fulfilled only by the availability of more advanced high strength but low density materials so that the structural mass of the vehicle could be reduced considerably from the present levels. The advent of nano-technology could play a deciding factor in developing such exotic materials. However, the material technology available today can realize a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) vehicle only and the configuration of the vehicle which is being considered. However, the before realizing the RLV-TSTO it is important to perfect many critical technologies pertaining to hypersonic reentry vehicles. Hence a technology demonstrator vehicle (RLV-TD) is being developed.”


A model of the RLV-TD

AVATAR is being developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization. Air Commodore Raghavan Gopalaswami, former chief of Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Hyderabad, is heading the project. He coined the name and made the presentation on the space plane at the global conference on propulsion at Salt Lake City (USA) on July 10, 2001. Gopalaswami said the idea for AVATAR originated from the work published by the RAND Corporation of the United States in 1987.

AVATAR is currently in the prototype testing stage and an initial development budget of only $5 million is allocated. Along with DRDO team development of critical technology components were undertaken by as many as 23 academic institutions (Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Science et al.) along with ISRO in India. Both the scramjet engine concept and the liquid oxygen collection process have already undergone successful tests at DRDO and at the IISC. DRDO has approved further testing of the liquid oxygen process and assigned a team to conduct a detailed review of the vehicle’s design.

Currently DRDO plans to build and fly a scaled-down version of AVATAR, weighing just 3 tonnes at takeoff. The project is headed byVikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. The mini AVATAR is to be built by a Hyderabad-based private company called CIM Technologies, project completion data is still not finalized. The prototype will be launched using the PSLV and will demonstrate all technologies used in AVATAR including oxygen collection. The aerodynamics characterization of the RLV-TD was done by National Aerospace Laboratories. The AVATAR design has already been patented in India and applications for registration of the design have been filed in patent offices in the United States, Germany, Russia and China.


The KALI is not a laser weapon as commonly believed. It emits powerful pulses of electrons (Relativistic Electron Beams- REB). Other components in the machine down the line convert the electron energy into EM Radiation, which can be adjusted to x-ray (as Flash X-Rays) or microwave (High Power Microwave) frequencies.

This has fueled hopes that the KALI could, one day be used in a High-Power Microwave gun, which could destroy incoming missiles and aircraft through soft-kill (destroying the electronic circuitry on the missile). However, weaponising such a system has many obstacles to overcome.


The KALI project was first mooted in 1985 by the then Director of the BARC, Dr. R. Chidambaram. Work on the Project began in 1989, being developed by the Accelerators & Pulse Power Division of the BARC. (Dr. Chidambaram was also the Scientific advisor the Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission). DRDO is also involved with this project. It was initially developed for industrial applications, although defence applications became clearer later.

The first accelerators had a power of ~0.4GW, which increased as later versions were developed. These were the KALI 80, KALI 200, KALI 1000, KALI 5000 and KALI 10000.

The KALI-5000 was commissioned for use in late 2004.


The KALI series (KALI 80, KALI 200, KALI 1000, KALI 5000 and KALI 10000) of accelerators are described as “Single Shot Pulsed Gigawatt Electron Accelerators”. They are single shot devices, using water filled capacitors to build the charge energy. The discharge is in the range of 1GW. Initially starting with 0.4GW power, present accelerators are able to reach 40GW. Pulse time is about 60 ns.

The Microwave radiations emitted by the KALI-5000 are in the 3–5 GHz Range

The KALI-5000 is a pulsed accelerator of 1 MeV electron energy, 50-100 ns pulse time, 40kA Current and 40 GW Power level. The system is quite bulky as well, with the KALI-5000 weighing 10 tons, and the KALI-10000, weighing 26 tons. They are also very power hungry, and require a cooling tank of 12,000 liters of oil. Recharging time is also too long to make it a viable weapon in its present form.


The KALI has been put to various uses by the DRDO. The DRDO was involved in configuring the KALI for their use.

The X-rays emitted are being used in Ballistics research as an illuminator for ultrahigh speed photography by the Defence Ballistics Research Institute (DBRL) in Chandigarh. The Microwave emissions are used for EM Research.

The microwave-producing version of Kali has also been used by the DRDO scientists for testing the vulnerability of the electronic systems of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which was then under development.

It has also helped in designing electrostatic shields to “harden” the LCA and missiles from microwave attack by the enemy as well as protecting satellites against deadly Electromagnetic Impulses (EMI) generated by nuclear weapons and other cosmic disturbances, which “fry” and destroy electronic circuits. Electronic components currently used in missiles can withstand fields of approx. 300 V/cm, while the fields in case of EMI attack reach thousands of V/cm.

As a Weapon

The KALI’s potential for a military role as a beam weapon has made it, in the eyes of China a threat. However, weaponisation of the KALI will take some time. The system is still under development, and efforts are being made to make it more compact, as well as improve its recharge time, which, at the present, makes it only a single use system.

There are also issues with creating a complete system, which would require development of many more components. There have been reports of placing the weaponized KALI in an Il-76 aircraft as an airborne defence system. There is also speculation of using the KALI as an Anti-satellite weapon and as a space-based weapon system, although it is unlikely that they would be implemented, given India’s stance on those issues.

           Nibhay Cruise Missile.png
Type Long-range, all-weather, subsoniccruise missile
Place of origin  India
Service history
Used by Indian Navy
Indian Army
Indian Air Force
Production history
Manufacturer DRDO
Produced Expected in 2012
Weight 1,000 kg
Length 6 m
Diameter 0.52 m

1,000 km
Speed 0.8 mach


The missile will have a range of 1,000 km. The Nirbhay will be able to be launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air. The missile is able to carry 24 different types of warheads and will be inducted into Indian Navy, Army, and Air Force. In particular, Nirbhay will be adapted for Russian-made fighters Su-30MKI.

It was reported in May 2010 that the missile will be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. A DRDO official told The Hindu in March 2012 that the Nirbhay will be able to pick out a target and attack it among multiple targets. He also mentioned it to be a two stage missile. The missile will also have a loitering capability i.e it can go round a target and perform several manoeuvres and then take it apart.


The missile is being developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment, a division of DRDO and after finalizing the design, the technology required for the missile is being developed. The first test flight of the missile is expected in the year 2012. It’s likely to be test-fired in August, 2012. Nirbhay will be a terrain hugging, stealth missile capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements and will use an inertial navigation system for guidance. Nirbhay will supplement Brahmos in the sense that it would enable delivery of warheads farther than the 290 km range of Brahmos.

BrahMos (Hindi:ब्रह्मोस, Russian: Брамос) is a stealth supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between Republic of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited. The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
It is expected to be the world’s fastest cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0. An Air launched variant of Brahmos is planned which is expected to come out in 2012 and will make India the only country with supersonic cruise missiles in their army, navy, and air force. A hypersonic version of the missile is also presently under development with speed of Mach 7 to boost aerial fast strike capability. It is expected to be ready for testing by 2017.
Though India had wanted the BrahMos to be based on a mid range cruise missile like P-700 Granit, Russia opted for the shorter range sister of the missile, P-800 Oniks, in order to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime restrictions, to which Russia is a signatory. Its propulsion is based on the Russian missile, and guidance has been developed by BrahMos Corp. The missile is expected to reach a total order worth of US$13 billion


  • Ship launched, Anti-Ship variant (operational)
  • Ship launched, Land attack variant (operational)
  • Land launched, Land attack variant (operational)
  • Land launched, Anti-Ship variant (In induction, tested December 10, 2010)
  • Air launched, Anti-Ship variant (under development, expected completion 2012)
  • Air launched, Land attack variant (under development, expected completion 2012)
  • Submarine launched, Anti-Ship variant (under development, expected completion 2011)
  • Submarine launched, Land attack variant (under development, expected completion 2011)
  • BrahMos block II land variant (Operational)
  • Brahmos block III land variant (Being inducted)
Other models
  • BrahMos-2 – scramjet-propelled, hypersonic version. This version will fly at speeds from 5-7 Mach and would be ready for test flight in 2017.
  • BrahMos-3 – a lighter version of the Brahmos-1 with thinner diameter for medium weight fighters such as the MiG-29K and the MMRCA.


BrahMos claims to have the capability of attacking surface targets by flying as low as 10 metres in altitude. It can gain a speed of Mach 2.8, and has a maximum range of 290 km. The ship-launched and land-based missiles can carry a 200 kg warhead, whereas the aircraft-launched variant (BrahMos A) can carry a 300 kg warhead. It has a two-stage propulsion system, with a solid-propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid-fueled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise. Air-breathing ramjet propulsion is much more fuel-efficient than rocket propulsion, giving the BrahMos a longer range than a pure rocket-powered missile would achieve.

The high speed of the BrahMos likely gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles such as the Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost four times faster than the Tomahawk, the BrahMos has almost 32 times the initial kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile (although it pays for this by having only 3/5 the payload and a fraction of the range despite weighing twice as much, suggesting a different tactical paradigm to achieve the objective). Its 2.8 mach speed means that it cannot be intercepted by some existing missile defence system and its precision makes it lethal to water targets.

Although BrahMos was primarily an anti-ship missile, the Brahmos Block III can also engage land based targets. It can be launched either in a vertical or inclined position and is capable of covering targets over a 360 degree horizon. The BrahMos missile has an identical configuration for land, sea, and sub-sea platforms. The air-launched version has a smaller booster and additional tail fins for added stability during launch. The BrahMos is currently being configured for aerial deployment with the Su-30MKI as its carrier. On September 5, 2010 BrahMos created a record for the first supersonic steep dive.

                                    K-15 SLBM  The K family of missiles is a series of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) developed by India to boost its second-strike capabilities and thus the nuclear deterrence. Information about this family of missiles has mostly been kept secret. In November 2010, India Today featured an article named “The secret ‘K’ missile family” that gave away some details about what they called as the “Black Project” which DRDO officials are covertly working on. It further stated, “The top secret indigenous “K” missiles are faster, lighter and stealthier.”

Missiles in the series

K-15 or Sagarika

Range Vs Payload for Shaurya Missile.

The Sagarika/K-15 missile (Sanskrit: सागरिका, IAST:Sāgarikā, meaning Oceanic) is the SLBM version of the land-based Shaurya missile. With a shorter range than K-4 missiles it is to be integrated with Arihant class submarine concurrently developed for the use of Indian Navy.

Sagarika/K-15 was developed at the DRDO’s missile complex in Hyderabad. The complex consists of the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) and the Research Centre, Imarat (RCI).

DRDL designed and developed the missile, while the ASL provided the motors and propulsion systems. The RCI’s contribution was in avionics, including control and guidance systems and inertial navigation systems. K-15 has a range of around 700 km with 1,000 kg warhead and around 1,900 km with 180 kg warhead. This will also get help from Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), expected to be ready by 2014, to ensure guaranteed national access to precision navigation. These will enable high accuracy required for precision strike.

K-4 Missile

K-4, named after former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, is the next significant development under the K-X series by DRDO. It was covertly tested off the coast of Visakhapatnam in January, 2010. However, any detail regarding the developments in this project are confidential and this project is sometimes referred to as “BLACK PROJECT” whose existence is neither denied nor acknowledged by DRDO. While there are some reports that claim that K-4 is a submarine launched version of AGNI-V, other reports state that it is actually a SLBM Version of the Agni-III missile that is being worked on. The goal of this project is to expand the second-strike options for the country, DRDO scientists told reporters during a briefing. A total of 258 private firms and 20 DRDO laboratories were involved in this venture. The Missile is said to have two variants. One with a range of 3,500 km that is 10 m long and the other with a range of 5,000 km will be 12 m long to arm future nuclear submarines of the Arihant class. K-4 will provide India the capability to target China and Pakistan simultaneously. INS Arihant, first of the Arihant Class Submarines, will be able to carry 4 (10m long) K-4s or 12 K-15s.

K-5 Missile

K-5 missile is the SLBM version of AGNI-VI (ICBM) is allegedly under development by DRDO. And it will arm the future variants of Arihant class submarines of the Indian Navy. DRDO revealed in 2011 that it is also in the process of developing a variant of Agni missiles which will be a submarine launched solid fuel missile with a maximum range of 6,000 kilometers and a payload of one tonne. However, there is strong opacity regarding the existence of such a project.
TYPE RANGE Weight Warhead length Status
K-15 750 km 10 tonnes 1 tonne 10 m K-15/B-05 in series production. Land-based missile awaiting clearance.
K-4 3,500-5,000 km 17 tonnes 1 tonneto 2.5 tonnes(depending upon the variant) 10 m  
Air Launched 200 km 2 tonnes 500 kg 4 m Hypersonic missile project called ‘Air launched article’. It is designated to fit with Sukhoi Su-30-MKI. First prototype will be ready by 2012.
K-5 (SLBM Version of AGNI-VI) 6,000 km Unspecified 1 tonne Unspecified Under Development by DRDO

   The Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) is a fifth-generation fighter being developed by India and Russia. It is a derivative project from the PAK FA (T-50 is the prototype) being developed for the Indian Air Force (FGFA is the official designation for the Indian version).

Two separate prototypes will be developed, one by Russia and a separate one by India. According to HAL chairman A.K. Baweja (speaking shortly after the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Committee meeting on 18 September 2008), the Russian version of the aircraft will be a single-seater, the Indian version will be a twin seater, analogous to the Su-30MKI which is a twin seat variant of the baseline Su-27. The plane is scheduled to enter series production in 2019.


India will eventually spend over $25 billion to induct 166 PAK FA and 48 FGFA advanced stealth fighter aircraft. This will be in addition to the huge investments to be made in co-developing FGFA, as with the infrastructure required to base, operate and maintain such jets in India. IAF’s Air Chief Marshal Naik said that the FGFA will be a swing-role fighter with advanced avionics, super cruise, stealth to increase survivability, enhanced lethality, 360 degree situational awareness, smart weapons, data-links, high-end mission computers and the like. Along with 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, which India plans to acquire, 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia, and 220 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, the FGFA will be the mainstay of India’s air combat fleet for the foreseeable future. This, in addition to the remaining 50 odd Mirage 2000 fighters, 61 MIG-29 SMT, and the 125 MIG-21 Bison operational till 2017, will help the IAF to reach the sanctioned strength of 44 squadrons.

The joint-venture borrows heavily from the success of the Brahmos project. Russia and India had agreed in early 2007 to jointly study and develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft Programme (FGFA). On October 27, 2007, Asia Times quoted Sukhoi’s director, Mikhail Pogosyan, “We will share the funding, engineering and intellectual property in a 50-50 proportion.” The Indian version, according to the deal, will be different from the Russian version and specific to Indian requirements. While the Russian version will be a single-pilot fighter, the Indian variant will have single and twin-seat configuration based on its operational doctrine which calls for greater radius of combat operations. The wings and control surfaces need to be reworked for the FGFA. Although, development work has yet to begin, the Russian side has expressed optimism that a test article will be ready for its maiden flight by 2009, one year after PAK FA scheduled maiden flight and induction into service by 2015.

By February 2009, as per Sukhoi General Director Mikhail Pogosyan, India will initially get the same PAK FA fighter of Russia and the only difference will be the software.

In 2011, it was reported that IAF will induct 148 single seat as well as 66 dual seat variants of the FGFA. IAF plans to induct the first lot of aircraft by 2017.


Although there is no reliable information about the PAK FA and FGFA specifications yet, it is known from interviews with people in the Russian Air Force that it will be stealthy, have the ability to supercruise, be outfitted with the next generation of air-to-air, air-to-surface, and air-to-ship missiles, and incorporate an AESA radar. The FGFA will use on its first flights 2 Saturn 117S engines (about 14.5 ton thrust each). The 117S is an advanced version of the AL-31F, but built with the experience gained in the AL-41F program. The AL-41F powered the Mikoyan MFI fighter (Mikoyan Project 1.44). Later versions of the PAK FA will use a completely new engine (17.5 ton thrust each), developed by NPO Saturn or FGUP MMPP Salyut.

Three Russian companies will compete to provide the engines with the final version to be delivered in 2015-2016.

HAL negotiated successfully to get a 25 per cent share of design and development work in the FGFA programme. HAL’s work share will include critical software including the mission computer, navigation systems, most of the cockpit displays, the counter measure dispensing (CMD) systems and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat prototype into the twin-seat fighter as per the requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Russian expertise in titanium structures will be complemented by India’s experience in composites like in the fuselage. A total of 500 aircraft are planned with option for further aircraft. Russian Air Force will have 200 single seated and 50 twin-seated PAK FAs while Indian Air Force will get 166 single seated and 48 twin-seated FGFAs. At this stage, the Sukhoi holding is expected to carry out 80% of the work involved. Under the project terms, single-seat fighters will be assembled in Russia, while Hindustan Aeronautics will assemble two-seaters.

According to HAL chairman A.K. Baweja on 16 September 2008, HAL will be contributing largely to composites, cockpits and avionics. HAL is working to enter into a joint development mechanism with Russia for the evolution of the FGFA engine as an upward derivative of the AL-37. Speaking to Flight magazine, United Aircraft chief Mikhail Pogosyan said India is giving engineering inputs covering latest airframe design, Hi-Tech software development and other systems.


The difference between PAK FA and the FGFA will be similar to that between Su-30M and Su-30MKI. Su-30M is a standard Russian version of a plane, whereas the Su-30MKI (MKI stands for “Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Indiski” meaning “Modernized Commercial India”) was jointly-developed with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force. The Su-30MKI includes 2.5D Thrust Vectoring Control (TVC) and canards. It is equipped with a multi-national avionics complex sourced from India, Israel, Russia and France. Further the FGFA will be predominantly using weapons of Indian origin such as Astra, a Beyond Visual Range missile (BVR) being developed by India, although in keeping with the Russian BVR doctrine of using a vast variety of different missiles for versatility and unpredictability to countermeasures, it can be expected to have compatibility with many different missile types. Ashok Baweja stated that “The Indian FGFA is significantly different from the Russian PAK FA because a second pilot means the addition of another dimension, development of wings and control surfaces.”

The FGFA may also include systems developed by third parties.

The completed joint Indian/Russian versions of the single seat or two seat fighters will differ from the current flying prototypes through the addition of stealth, supercruise, sensors, networking, and combat avionics for a total of 43 improvements.

Specifications (PAK FA and FGFA – projected)


  • Crew: 2 (pilot)
  • Length: 22.6 m ()
  • Wingspan: 14.2 m (46 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 5.9 m ()
  • Wing area: 78.8 m² (848 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 18,500 kg (40,786 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 26,000 kg (57,320 lb)
  • Useful load: 7,500 kg (16,535 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 34,000 kg ()
  • Powerplant: 2 × Saturn-Lyulka AL-41F turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 96.1 kN (9,800 kgf, 21,605 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 152 kN (15,500 kgf, 34,172 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: 2,100 – 2,500 km/h (Mach 2+)  (1,305 mph+)
  • g-limits: (10-11 g)
  • Cruise speed: 1,850 – 2,100 km/h (1,150 – 1,300 mph)
  • Combat radius: 1,500 km  ()
  • Ferry range: 5,500 km (3,400 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 20,000 m (65,617 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 350 m/s (68,898 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 330 (normal) – 470 (maximum) kg/m2 (67 (normal) – 96 (maximum) lb/ft2)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.19
  • Runway: 350 m (1,148 ft)
  • Endurance: 3.3 hrs (198 mins)


  • Guns: 2× 30 mm internal cannon
  • Hardpoints: 16 total, 8 internal, 8 on wings.


  • Radar: N050 BRLS AESA/PESA Radar (Enhancement of IRBIS-E) on SU-35
    • Frequency: X (8 – 12 GHz)
    • Diameter: 0.7 m (2 ft 4 in)
    • Targets: 32 tracked, 8 engaged
    • Range: > 400 km (248 mi)
      • EPR: 3 m² (32.3 ft²) at 400 km (248 mi)
      • RCS: 3 m ² to 400 km, 1 m ² to 300 km, 0.5 m ² to 240 km, 0.1m ² to 165 km, 0.01M ² to 90 km.
      • Azimuth: 240 ° (± 120 °)
    • Power: 5,000 W
    • Weight: 65 to 80 kg (143 to 176 lb)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  courtesy :-
Role Military UAV
Manufacturer ADE, DRDO
Designer ADE, DRDO
First flight 1995
Status Production
Primary user Indian Army
Produced 12+
Unit cost $4.47million

The DRDO Nishant is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) developed by India’s ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment) a branch of DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces. The Nishant UAV is primarily tasked with intelligence gathering over enemy territory and also forreconnaissance, training, surveillance, target designation, artillery fire correction, damage assessment, ELINT and SIGINT. The UAV has an endurance of 4 h 30 min. Nishant has completed development phase and user trials.

The 380 kg (840 lb) Nishant UAV requires rail-launching from a hydro-pneumatic launcher and recovered by a Parachute System. Launches at a velocity of 45 m/s are carried out in 0.6 second with 100 kW power and subsequent launches can be carried out in intervals of 20 minutes. The Mobile Hydro-Pneumatic Launcher (MHPL) system mounted on a Tatra truck weighs 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) and boasts of a life cycle of 1000 launches before requiring overhaul. Nishant is one of the few UAVs in the world in its weight-class capable of being catapult-launched and recovered by using parachute, thus eliminating the need for a runway as in case of conventional take-off and landing with wheels.


To meet the Army’s operational requirement of an RPV it was decided in September 1988 that the Defence Research and Development Organisation would undertake the indigenous development of the UAV. The General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) was finalised by the Army in May 1990. The Nishant RPV made its first test flight in 1995. In July 1999, for the first time the Indian army deployed its new Nishant UAV system in the fight against guerilla forces backed by Pakistan in Kashmir. Nishant, which had been developed for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance needs of the Indian Army, was test flown again in early 2002. The indigenous Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) Nishant developed by ADE,DRDO had completed its 100th flight by June 15, 2002. The Indian Army has placed an order for 12 Nishant UAVs along with ground support systems. Nishant Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) developed by DRDO for Indian Army was successfully flight tested near Kolar on 20 June 2008. Nishant has completed development phase and user trials. The present flight tests are pre confirmatory trials before induction into services.

Test flight

On Sunday 5 April 2009 DRDO launched a test flight of the Nishant UAV. The main goal was to test the performance of the Wankel engine used on the UAV. An abandoned World War II runway at a village near Kolar played host to the first ever flight of this indigenous rotary engine-powered UAV. The flight took off on early Sunday morning and climbed to an altitude of 1.8 km (5,900 ft) effortlessly before cruising for a duration of 35 minutes. The air vehicle was recovered safely at the intended place at a dried-up lake, after a total flight duration of 40 min. The engine, a Wankel rotary type, was the developmental project of the DRDO and was jointly designed and developed by NAL, a CSIR laboratory, VRDE, Ahmednagar and ADE, Bangalore. The provisional flight clearance for the first indigenous prototype engine was given by the certifying agency, RCMA. The engine was cleared for flight after rigorous ground endurance test runs. The Wankel engine weighs about 30 kg (70 lb), and this engine type is known for its high power-to-weight ratio in a single rotor category.

DRDO was satisfied with the test results. The performance of the engine during the flight met the requirements of the first flight of a engine in the air vehicle. This 55 hp indigenous engine is expected to replace the present imported engine of Nishant. The critical core engine, including the special cylinder composite nickel–silicon carbide coating and special aluminium alloy castings, was designed and developed by NAL. VRDE developed engine peripherals such as the ignition and fuel systems and ADE developed flight testing. The reconnaissance UAV, which has completed its user trials with the Indian Army, is expected to be handed over to the army shortly.

Nishant UAV again underwent crucial confirmatory user trials at Pokhran in April 2010. The trials began April 20 and were supposed to last for one week. A senior Army official at Pokhran said the trials are moving forward in a very satisfactory manner. “We are checking three crucial parameters: video quality, tracking ability and fall of gunshot [missed distance after firing]. These input performances are critical to our operations in the forward areas,” the official said. DRDO has delivered the first four UAVs to the Indian Army at a cost of 800 million INR ($17.9 million).

According to the Times Of India, two UAVs crash-landed in Jaisalmer district near the India-Pak border due to change in wind direction on Apr 28th and Apr 30th. Confirming the news, a DRDO official said, “The user trials were going on and during the flight there were some technical snags owing to which the craft was landed using parachutes.” He said, “But the landing was done safely and no one was hurt in the process. Though before our officials could reach to get the craft back, villagers damaged the aircraft and took away some equipment.”

On 3rd Feb 2011 Nishant UAV has successfully completed confirmatory trials conducted by the Indian Army at Pokhran, Rajasthan


  • Day/night capability training vehicle
  • Battlefield reconnaissance & surveillance,
  • Target tracking and localization
  • Artillery fire correction
  • All terrain mobility
  • Target designation (using integral laser target designator)
  • Endurance: 4 h 30 min

Ground support systems

  • Mobile hydropneumatic launcher (MHPL)
  • Ground control station (GCS)
  • Antenna vehicle/Ground Data Terminal(GDT)
  • Avionics preparation vehicle(APV)
  • Mechanical maintenance vehicle
  • UAV transportation vehicle
  • Power supply vehicle


  • Crew: None
  • Payload: 45 kg
  • Length: 4.63 m (15.2 ft)
  • Wingspan: 6.57 m (21.6 ft)
  • Empty weight: 380 kg (840 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × RE-2-21-P or RE-4-37-P, ()


  • Maximum speed: 185 km/h
  • Cruise speed: 125 km/h to 150 km/h
  • Range: 160 km (100 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 3,600 m (up to 11,800 ft)

Launch & recovery

  • Launch: Mobile hydropneumatic launcher (MHPL) system
  • Recovery: Parachute + landing bags