Joining other leading world military powers in increased use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is India whose Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) agency has furthered the DRDO "Nishant" initiative. The Nishant is an unarmed UAV intended for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition and artillery support while also considered for a variety of other battlefield roles. The aircraft saw its first flight in 1995, cleared requisite Indian Army testing and has entered limited productionas of this writing (October 2013). The Nishant was born in an Indian Army requirement originating in 1988.
The Nishant makes use of a conventional aircraft arrangement and follows well-accepted UAV design form - particularly for low-altitude operations requiring extended loitering times and stability for its onboard optics payload. It features a central nacelle making up its fuselage which contains avionics and payload as well as powerplant and fuel stores. Wings are straight appendages mounted high atop the fuselage. The tail consists of a twin-boom structure joined at the rear by a single horizontal plane; outboard of this plane are vertical tail fins. There is no fixed undercarriage as the Nishant is launched via catapult system and recovered by way of a parachute and landing cushions to retard the fall. In this fashion, the Nichant's operation is somewhat less complex as is her overall production. Optics are held in a positional blister assembly located along the belly. A conventional engine installation drives a two-bladed propeller in a "pusher" arrangement at the rear of the aircraft. The Nishant weighs in at 400lbs and can carry a payload of 100 pounds. Dimensionally, the vehicle is given a length of 15 feet and a wingspan of 21.5 feet. Its design provides the airframe with a maximum speed of 115 miles per hour and cruising speeds nearing 80 miles per hour. Operational range is listed at 100 miles with a service ceiling under 12,000 feet.
The Nishant is launched from a hydropneumatic rail system seated on the bed of a Tatra series 8x8 military truck. The truck serves in other militarized forms (including rocket projector platform) and is a proven battlefield component, providing the Nishant with essentially all-terrain accessibility. Couple this to the aircraft's 4.5 hour mission endurance window and the system becomes a valuable tactical asset to Indian Army operations. The complete Nishant package includes a Ground Control Station (GCS), specially trained operators and applicable carriers of equipment to ensure proper operation of the UAV.
Early use of a Nishant occurred in July of 1999 by elements of the Indian Army over the disputed Kashmir region against Pakistani-aligned forces where its reconnaissance capabilities were put to good use. Since then, the type has been consistently modified to suit required Indian Army specifications including use of an in-house engine.
In May of 2010, The Times of India reported that a pair of Nishant UAVs had crash landed at the village of Jaisalmer. The airframes were scavenged by villagers before the arrival of the Indian military. This is in addition to a pair of incidences involving Nishants back in April of 2010 where the UAVs were forced to crash land during trials.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
15.2 ft (4.63 m)
21.6 ft (6.57 m)
838 lb (380 kg)
1,213 lb (550 kg)
+375 lb (+170 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base DRDO Nishant production variant)
1 x RE-2-21-P or RE-4-37-P engine developing approximately 55 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller assembly in "pusher" configuration.
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