New test facility for Indian drones, other weapons in Karnataka

Bengaluru: India is getting a new high-tech facility to test its drones, air-to-ground weapons and other equipment at Challakere in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district, a defence official said on Saturday.

“The dedicated Aeronautical Test Range at Challakere will evaluate the indigenous aeronautical systems built for the Indian armed forces by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) labs,” the official told IANS ahead of its unveiling on Sunday by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

The Rs 1,300 crore facility’s secure air space will enable integrating and testing of various UAVs and other defence equipment, including weapons, parachutes, aerostats and electric warfare flares before their induction into the services.

As the first of its kind in the country, the sprawling 4,090-acre ATR also has a 2.2 km runway along with taxiways in conformity with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.

“The ATR houses the air traffic display system with remote control of radar operations, an Air Traffic Control radio frequency voice communication system and a range operational communication system,” said the official.

Initially, the facility with two hangers and a radar centre will integrate and test Rustom-1 and Rustom-2 Tactical Advanced Platform for Aerial Surveillance (TAPAS).

When fully operational, the range will be used for testing and evaluating other projects of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

In line with the National Green Tribunal guidelines, there will be no test flights of ballastic missiles to protect the natural ecological system around.

“The facility will, however, be used to conduct trials of the Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems platform, for the Indian Air Force,” said the official.

DRDO’s other labs such as the Centre for Air Borne Systems, the Gas Turbine Research Establishment, the Defence Avionics Research Establishment and the Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification will all be using the new facility in addition to the ADE’s ATR at Kolar.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Space Research Organisation are also setting up their new facilities in the region.