The face of modern warfare is changing at lightning speed. Armed forces around the globe are now concentrating on unmanned systems to reduce the risk on human lives. The front runner of this race is definitely Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs. The UAVs, which started on the role of surveillance of enemy territories without risking to sent valuable aircrafts and lives behind enemy lines. These drones can sneak up on the enemy and provides real time data to Command center from which decisive decisions can be taken.
For India’s Geo-political landscape, UAVs are a necessary military system. It is evident from Indian armed forces spending crores on modernising it’s UAV fleet. The main target for our UAV ops is Pakistan, who heavily relies on Chinese UAVs. Here in this article we try to compare between two UAVs that could prowl the skies in near future.
CAIG Wing Loong
MANUFACTURER: Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group
NATION OF ORIGIN: China
TYPE: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV
TECHNICAL SPECS (For Wing Loong-I)
- Length: 9.05 m
- Wingspan: 14 m
- Height: 2.77 m
- Maximum Take-off weight: 1,100 kg
- Propellers: 3-bladed
- Maximum speed: 280 km/h
- Endurance: 20+ hours
- Combat radius: 200+km
- Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,000 ft)
Combined Armaments and Avionics totals 200kg
- Armaments include: Various Air-to-Surface missiles and guided Bombs including the likes of BA-7 air-to-ground missile, YZ-212 laser-guided bomb, YZ-102A anti-personnel bomb and 50-kilogram LS-6 miniature guided bomb as per official marketing material.
- Currently all Chinese export UAVs are controlled by Line-of-Sight (LoS) radio controls rendering them useless for over the horizon operations. This hinders the usage of drones in rugged terrains like mountain ranges, deep valleys etc.
- Its 100kg payload (for Armaments and Avionics each) is under-capable for future war scenarios. It is definitely not a stand-alone attack option.
- Wing Loong-II, an upgraded version features a powerful engine and can carry upto 12 Air to Surface missiles.
NATION OF ORIGIN: India
TYPE: MALE UAV
- Length: 9.5m
- Wingspan: 20.6m
- Height: 2.4m
- Maximum Take-off Weight: 850kg
- Propellers: 2x 3-bladed powered by NPO SATURN engines
- Maximum Speed: 280km/h
- Endurance: ~20 hrs
- Combat radius: 250km
- Service Ceiling: 6700m (22,000ft)
- Combined Avionics and Armament payload of 200kg. Rustom-I was photographed with 2x HeliNa, Helicopter launched version of the Anti-Tank missile Nag on test trials. This says that TAPAS could have more than 2x HeliNa fitted into it.
- Since TAPAS is under development, its ability to be armed is to be doubted. S Christopher, Director General of DRDO stated “Media reports are incorrect. Tapas is an UAV and not an UCAV.” This implies that TAPAS would be focused only as a C4I platform to boost countries recon abilities. This is a clever move as DRDO is currently working on the highly secretive Stealth UCAV called AURA.
- TAPAS would be a platform to serve in between the roles of Rustom-I and Rustom-H, the latter being a High Altitude Long Endurance UAV.
- Combat capability: Since we have no conclusive reports on possible arming of TAPAS, a conclusion can’t be derived. Since Rustom-I can carry 2x HeliNa missiles, possible payload of 200kg(sensors+armaments) can be assumed. Without any concrete evidence, no winner in this section can’t be decided.
- Guidance: Wing Loong-I can be guided only by LoS radio control, on the other hand TAPAS is said to have relay enabled communication which will push the range further more to 350km.
- Sensors: TAPAS has state-of-the art Intelligence gathering sensors and targeting pods lasing targets for other strike aircrafts. Wing Loong too have same kind of capabilities.
So, both platforms are nearly at same level (if we assume combat capability for TAPAS) and are good competitors in their category. The addition of US and Israeli drones will be a definite arsenal booster and is more than enough to cater for the country’s needs.
However, if we exclude the armament capability of TAPAS, both are at different class and a comparison isn’t logical.