DRDO Tests Abhyas Drone, HAL To Commence Initial Production

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted a flight test of High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) ‘Abhyas’ on December 23. The test was conducted from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur. This test comes after Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was selected as the Development and Production Partner (DcPP) for the program on December 17, 2021.

Abhyas (Indian Ministry of Defence)

During the flight trial, high subsonic speed trajectory at a very low altitude with high endurance was demonstrated. Abhyas has a MEMS based Inertial Navigation System (INS) along with a flight control computer that helps it to follow pre-designated paths autonomously, which was tested. It is controllable using a laptop-based Ground Control Station. A data link designed by a Bengaluru based industry partner was successfully flown and tested during the flight. This is the fifth trial of Abhyas, first tested on May 13, 2019. Two trials were conducted on September 22, 2022 and another trial on October 22, 2021.

Two 68mm underslung rocket boosters, made by Ordnance Factory Ambajhari, provide initial acceleration during launch. A small turbojet engine with over 25kg of thrust is used to achieve a maximum speed of Mach 0.7. Abhyas is capable of flying at 5km altitude and has a 2g turn capability. It is believed to have a diameter of about 185mm and a length of about 2,385mm. The 70kg drone has an endurance of over 30 minutes at wide open throttle conditions at sea level and can fly for up to 400km.

Abhyas during its first trial in May 2019. Note the side mounted and inclined 68mm boosters which were underslung and parallel for future tests (Indian Ministry of Defence)

Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO laboratory, has developed Abhyas since 2012 to meet the requirement of aerial targets of the Indian Armed Forces and DRDO. It would replace Meggitt Banshee in this role. The Army had issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 125 Manoeuvrable Expendable Target Drones (MEAT) in July 2020, for its air defence units. The Navy and Air Force have similar requirements. Abhyas has a miss distance indication system and is fitted with a Luneburg lens to greatly enhance its radar cross section (RCS). It has potential to be used as a decoy.

Abhyas (Indian Ministry of Defence)

Abhyas is the third DRDO developed target drone, after the Lakshya and Ulka. Abhyas is based on the towed target used by the larger Lakshya. Lakshya is a ground launched parachute recoverable drone with a length of 6m and weight of 700kg. An advanced version called Lakshya-2 was also developed which has enhanced features and is capable of weapon delivery. Ulka is a 360kg air launched rocket powered expendable target capable of speeds up to Mach 1.1. It has an endurance of up to 5 minutes and a maximum range of 70km.

The order HAL secured from ADE was for manufacturing, assembly, integration, testing and supply of Abhyas. After completion of this order, which is for 10 drones and 2 ground launchers, HAL would produce 50% of the required drones with a private firm producing the rest. The initial order would be completed in 12 months.