Indian aerospace firm Newspace is collaborating with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) on a locally-designed unmanned wingman concept.

The conceptual unmanned combat vehicle (UCAV) is billed as suitable for “operations in contested airspace” and will ensure “command of the skies in the next decade.”

A Newspace official says the aircraft was designed in Bengaluru, but the artificial intelligence is being developed in Delhi. The aircraft will be relatively small with a maximum take-off weight of 1,300kg and a payload of 250kg, which can included small guided munitions. It has a low observable body with twin canted tails.

A diagram shows how the UCAV would form part of a “distributed sensor fusion” system, where radar, electronic warfare, and intelligence data are shared between several UCAVs and a manned fighter.

The aircraft will be powered by the locally developed PTA7E engine, fed by an S-duct from the top of the fuselage.

“There is a fine line between stealth and aerodynamics,” says the official.

The UCAV is still in the design phase, but a prototype could be ready in the next two years.

Newspace, in conjunction with India’s National Aerospace Laboratories, also has a programme that could see India’s Jaguar fighters receive the ability to generate missile swarms.

Four of the company’s planned Swarming Air Vehicles (SAV) can be accommodated in pod carried on hardpoints normally used for fuel tanks, giving each fighter the ability to carry eight munitions. The system also has potential on the C-130J.

A first test of the SAV is planned in a year.