26th Jun, 2012
Stealth-Capable Unmanned Bomber IUSAV Under Development In India
Designed to carry out bombing raids undetected against China and Pakistan; expected to be ready by 2020.
After sealing the Dassault Rafale deal, India's quest for air dominance has moved into UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) territory. Dubbed as the Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (IUSAV), Headlines Today had uncovered this secret project two years ago, but now claims to be in possession of concept images. The IUSAV is a stealth bomber that can be controlled from the ground. This project puts India in the list of a select few countries that are developing radar-invisible UAVs with bombing capabilities.
Current UAVs with strike capabilities, such as the US Predator B (Reaper) drone have a limited range and weapons payload, whereas reconnaissance-specific unmanned vehicles such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk may have excellent reach, but lack offensive capability. Like the Boeing Phantom Ray, India's UAV will attempt to combine the abilities of the Reaper and Global Hawk to deliver a drone capable of carrying out bombing raids deep within enemy territory. A major part of this aerial system relies on incorporating the radar-cloaking design from the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
The government has acknowledged the IUSAV project, but no further information is forthcoming for obvious reasons. However, it is reported that flight tests are set to begin within three years, with a fully-operational system scheduled to be ready by 2020. The concept image, although crude, looks strikingly similar to the Phantom Ray, which happens to be one of the few "flying wing" designs modelled after the B-2 Spirit and its inspiration, the Horton Ho 229.
It's no secret that the primary role of the IUSAV will be to carry out deep strikes against China and Pakistan. At the moment, it isn't clear if the UAV platform will be capable of carrying a thermonuclear payload. More importantly, considering the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is nowhere close to induction even after a development time of 25 years, how the government is going to put its UAV into the air by the end of this decade is anybody's guess.