- The DRDO is responsible for the ongoing Light Combat Aircraft. The LCA is intended to provide the Indian Air Force with a modern, fly by wire, multi-role fighter, as well as develop the aviation industry in India. The LCA program has allowed DRDO to progress substantially in field of avionics, flight control systems, aircraft propulsion and composite structures, along with aircraft design and development.
- The DRDO provided key avionics for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI program under the "Vetrivel" program. Systems developed by DRDO include Radar warning receivers, radar and display Computers. DRDO's radar computers, manufactured by HAL are also being fitted into MalaysianSu-30s.
- The DRDO is part of the Indian Air Force's upgrade programs for its MiG-27 and Sepecat Jaguar combat aircraft upgrades, along with the manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. DRDO and HAL have been responsible for the system design and integration of these upgrades, which combine indigenously developed systems along with imported ones. DRDO contributed subsystems like Tarang radar warning receiver, Tempest jammer, core avionics computers, brake parachutes, Cockpit instrumentation and displays.
The DRDO's avionics program has been a success story with its mission computers, radar warning receivers, high accuracy direction finding pods, airborne jammers, flight instrumentation, in use across a wide variety of Indian Air Force aircraft. The organization began developing these various items for its upgrades, and for the LCA project. Variants were then developed for other aircraft. The lead designer in several of these efforts has been DARE, or the Defence Avionics Research Establishment, DRDO's designated mission avionics laboratory. Other laboratories have also chipped in, from the radar specialist LRDE, to Electronic warfare focused DEAL to the ADE, which develops UAVs and flight control systems.
The DRDO is also co-developing more advanced avionics for the Light Combat Aircraft and the IAF's combat fleet. These include a range of powerful Open Architecture computers, better Defensive avionics including modern RWR's, Self protection jammers, Missile approach warning systems and integrated defensive suites, Optronics systems (such as Infrared search and track systems) and navigational systems such as Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial navigational systems. Other items under development include digital Map generators, Helmet mounted displays and Smart multifunctional displays.
Other Hindustan Aeronautics programs
Apart from the aforementioned upgrades, DRDO has also assisted Hindustan Aeronautics with its programs. These include theHAL Dhruv helicopter and the HAL HJT-36. Over a hundred LRU (Line Replaceable Unit)'s in the HJT-36 have come directly from the LCA program. Other duties have included assisting the Indian Air Force with indigenization of spares and equipment. These include both mandatory as well as other items.
Unmanned aerial vehicles
The DRDO has also developed two unmanned aerial vehicles- the Nishant (Midnight) tactical UAV and the Lakshya (Target) Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA). The Lakshya PTA has been ordered by all three services for their gunnery target training requirements. Efforts are on to develop the PTA further, with an improved all digital flight control system, and a better turbojet engine. The Nishant is a hydraulically launched short ranged UAV for the tactical battle area. It is currently being evaluated by the Indian Navy and the Indian Paramilitary forces as well.
The DRDO is also going ahead with its plans to develop a new class of UAVs. These draw upon the experience gained via the Nishant program, and will be substantially more capable. Referred to by the HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) and MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) designations.The MALE UAV has been tentatively named the Rustom, and will feature canards and carry a range of payloads, including optronic, radar, laser designators and ESM. The UAV will have conventional landing and take off capability. The HALE UAV will have features such as SATCOM links, allowing it to be commanded beyond line of sight. Other tentative plans speak of converting the LCA into a UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle), and weaponizing UAVs.
DRDO has been responsible for the indigenization of key defence stores and equipment. DRDO has assisted Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and the IAF with the indigenization of spares and assemblies for several aircraft. DRDO laboratories have worked in coordination with academic institutes, the CSIR and even ISRO over projects required for the Indian Air Force and its sister services. DRDO's infrastructure is also utilized by other research organizations in India.