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The Lakshya (“target” in Sanskrit) is an Indian remotely piloted high speed targetdrone system developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) ofDRDO. The drone, remote piloted by a ground control station provides realistic towed aerial sub-targets for live fire training. The drone is ground or ship launched from a zero length launcher and recovery is by a two stage parachute system developed by ADE (DRDO), for land or sea based recovery. The drone has a crushable nose cone, which absorbs the impact of landing, minimizing damage. The flight path may be controlled or pre-programmed, based upon the type of mission.
The requirement for a pilotless target aircraft (PTA) arose in 1976. Feasibility studies were carried out by ADE to provide for a target system that met the requirements of all 3 services of the armed forces. An Inter Services Qualitative Requirement (ISQR), common to the three Services, was formulated by a Working Group constituted by the Ministry of Defence in January 1977 and 35 ISQR points were identified. Subsequently, based on a feasibility study carried out by ADE, the project for the design and development of Inter-Services PTA by ADE, satisfying the ISQR was sanctioned by Government in September 1980 at a cost of 170 million (US$3.8 million) including a foreign exchange element of 80 million (US$1.8 million). The development activity was planned for completion within five years. In parallel, a development project for indigenous development of PTA Engine (PTAE-7) was also sanctioned at an estimated cost of 45 million (US$1 million) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL) in September 1980, based on a feasibility study and project proposal submitted by HAL. The engine was to be developed by HAL by September 1985, concurrently with the PTA. HAL announced the successful trial of the indigenously-designed and developed remote-controlled PTAE-7 jet engine on 24 January 2001.
Between December 1985 and July 1986, four Lakshya PTA prototypes powered by Microturbo TRI-60-5 engines were launched for trials. While the first two launches were successful for planned flight times of 20 and 38 minutes respectively, the next two launches failed. By June 1994, 18 Lakshya PTA prototypes were fabricated by ADE itself and 43 trials were conducted, 24 of which were between December 1985 and February 1992. Due to rigorous evaluation and stringent quality control, a total of 10 prototypes were lost during the testing phase between 1985 and 1990. The project was formally closed on June 1994 and a final closure report was issued in April 1995 after incurring a total expenditure of 218.2 million (US$4.9 million). The first 6 Lakshya drones were given to the Indian Air Force in 1998. Laskhya units are manufactured and overhauled at HAL’s Aircraft division, Bangalore. The Lakshya was formally inducted into the services by CAS AY Tipnis, on 9 November 2000 at Interim test range (ITR) Chandipur. On May 9, 2002, an upgraded version of the Laskhya featuring the new engine from HAL was flown from ITR Chandipur, bringing user trials to a close. On 6 November 2002, HAL announced that they had received an initial order for 25 Lakshya drones and that limited series production to satisfy the order for all three services had already begun. By 16 January 2003, the drone had completed over 100 flights.
A modified reconnaissance version of the Lakshya is under development. This version was fitted with oblique cameras and a digital on board computer with a faster data-link enabling the drone to carry out completely autonomous operations. The development of this version was formally announced by Dr VK Aatre, then Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, during his lecture on “Evolving Battlefields and Role of Technology” organized by Bangalore Science Forum on 5 July 2003.
India’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has just announced the successful flight test of a Lakshya-2 pilotless targeting drone. According to a DRDO statement on 21 dec 2010, “Users have indicated their requirement of flying pilotless target aircraft at very low altitudes (15 to 25 metres above sea level) to simulate the trajectory of low-level cruise missiles. Accordingly ADE has prepared Lakshya-2 with necessary hardware and software to meet those requirements.”
The Dec 20 flight test lasted 32 minutes at a range of 10-km. The DRDO statement said, “The flight was stable and well-controlled. A mobile launcher to launch the PTA from anywhere, and GPS to locate for recovery were used successfully.” The Lakshya-2 also demonstrated several manoeuvers. The system has been designed so that two Lakshya targets can be flown and controlled by the common ground control station.
Operational history
Indian Air Force had received the aircraft, ground systems and expendables in September 1999 and Indian Navy was scheduled to receive its first deliveries in November 2000. 23 Pilotless Target Aircraft Lakshya have been inducted into the defence services. The production cost of one aircraft is 293.75 lakh (US$655,062.5). Some countries, like Singapore, Malaysia and Israel have expressed interest for “paid demonstration” of the Lakshya aircraft as a target. A similar “paid demonstration” was conducted for Israel’s Air Force during the year 2002. This information was given by the Defense Minister Shri AK Antony on 5 September 2007.
Specifications (Lakshya PTA)
General characteristics
  • Crew: None
  • Length: 2385 mm ()
  • Wingspan: 3m ()
  • Height: (500-5000 m)
  • Wing area: 2.27 m2 ()
  • Airfoil: NACA64A008
  • Max takeoff weight: 705 kg (1554 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × HAL PTAE-7 turbojet
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.7
  • Range: 150 km (93.2 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 9000 m (5000 m with towed sub-target)
  • Rate of climb: 25 m/s ()
Launch & recovery
  • Launch: Rocket Assisted
  • Recovery: Two stage parachute