On 22 September 2020, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) successfully tested Abhyas HEAT UAV which is and High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) system from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore, Odisha. During this test, two Abhyas UAVs were tested for validating different parameters.
Abhyas is a Hindi word which means “Practice” and indeed the Abhyas UAV was designed for imparting better practice to Indian Air Defense operators as well as to Indian Air Force pilots. Abhyas UAV takes some parts from Lakshya Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA) that are already in service with the Indian Armed Forces. However, Abhyas is a much more advanced system and it can be used for multiple applications.
You may watch a Guarding India video in Abhyas HEAT UAV at the following link or you may continue reading this article.
Abhyas is designed for imparting a much realistic threat scenario for the training of various air defence and aircraft launched missile systems. However, it is far more complex than any aerial target like Lakshya or Meggitt BTT-3 Banshee drones which are in use by Indian Defense Forces.
Abhyas HEAT UAV is designed to mimic the performance of enemy aircraft means it can imitate the exact radar or heat signatures of Pakistani F-16s or Chinese J-20 stealth fighters. Abhyas has a composite body that has a very little reflection of its own and by varying the output of various onboard systems Abhyas can pose as any enemy/own aircraft.
This capability of adopting multiple aircraft profiles is an advantage as now Indian Air Defense troops and will be able to train on how a Pakistani F-16 fighter will look on their radar screens without actually needing the physical presence of F-16 fighters which will be impossible to obtain as all nations rigorously safeguard their frontline fighters. However, the radar and infrared signatures of these fighters are routinely picked up by Indian Air Force radar stations and if fed inside Abhyas drone it will be as good as having an F-16 for practice.
For exactly replicating various signatures of enemy fighters, Abhays HEAT UAV has Radar Cross Section (RCS), Visual and Infra-Red (IR) augmentation systems that pose a very real threat and provide the live experience of facing enemy fighters.
Abhyas HEAT UAV has been indigenously designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), DRDO. The main body of Abhyas UAV was designed by using parts from DRDO Lakshya. The Abhyas UAV has five main sections which are the pointed nose cone that is painted white, equipment bay for carrying various payloads, fuel tank bay, air intake bay which houses the engine, and finally silver-colored tail cone.
The wings and tailplane of Abhyas HEAT UAV have been derived from the Lakshya PTA, however, there is a difference. Unlike Lakshya PTA which has under-body wings, the wings of Abhyas UAV are positioned on the upper side of the body which eases the loading and unloading of payloads in the equipment bay.
Abhyas HEAT UAV uses two kinds of construction materials. The nose and tail cones are made up of composite material (GFRP) which reduces the overall weight of aircraft while the equipment bay, air intake, and fuel tank are made up of an aluminum steel alloy which gives structural integrity to the design.
The Abhyas HEAT UAV is launched from a zero-length launcher means it can fly immediately from any place. This zero-length launcher uses two 68 mm booster rockets manufactured by Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). These rockets burn rapidly and are jettisoned after Abhyas HEAT UAV reaches the required altitude. Thereafter, a ‘Made in India’ small size gas-turbine engine takes over for the rest of the flight. Though DRDO is yet to disclose which engine is used in Abhyas we estimate it may be one of the variants small gas turbine engines that DRDO has been working since 2017. The power of this small engine can be estimated from the fact that during the test Abhyas HEAT UAV flew for 30 minutes at 5000-meter flying altitude while cruising at speed of 0.5 Mach or 617 kilometers per hour. Additionally, Abhyas UAV demonstrated a 2g turning capability with ease.
Abhyas HEAT UAV has been designed for fully autonomous flight using a digital autopilot. It has an advanced MEMS-based Inertial Navigation System (INS) along with Flight Control Computer (FCC) which guides and controls Abhyas UAV during the entire flight. Abhyas has an auto check facility that is given in form of a laptop-based Ground Control Station (GCS). As per old DRDO statements, Abhyas drone can cover around 400 kilometers in a single flight.
As covered earlier, High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) systems are very important for the training of own forces and that’s why Indian Armed forces were spending a lot of money on importing aerial target drones for the practice of troops. As per DRDO estimates, one Abhyas HEAT UAV system with ground support equipment will cost 40 lakh rupees while the imported Banshee drones cost around 1 crore rupees per system. As per current estimates, the Indian Armed Forces have a requirement of more than 300 Abhyas drones for training.
In the future, Abhyas drone can be used in multiple roles as it can carry a considerable payload. Abhyas UAV can increase its radar cross-section 50 times therefore it can be used as a decoy to fool enemy radars during any Balakot like a strike. Abhyas can be converted into a low flying high-speed subsonic missile or even be used as an airborne jammer. Reportedly, Abhyas drone is very accurate and can be used to hit even selected windows of the target house. However, Abhays UAV is yet to be weaponized but the option remains open for future upgrades.
Finally, Team Guarding India estimates that by successfully testing the Abhyas HEAT UAV, India has mastered high-end multiple-use drone technology which will be very useful in saving a lot of money from the Indian defense budget while providing better practice to our pilots and air defense troops.