Thailand’s ATIL Unveils DP18A Tactical UCAV

In the foreground is the new DP18A UCAV that will perform its maiden flight next year. Behind it is the DP20 MALE-class UAV. (Gordon Arthur)

Aero Technology Industry Company Limited (ATIL) of Thailand unveiled its DP18A tactical Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) at Defense & Security 2023 in Bangkok.

Designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as strikes against enemy targets, the 4m-long aircraft with a 9m wingspan features a distinctive V-shaped tail. Set to form the main product in ATIL’s line-up, the DP18A builds upon the twin-tailboom DP16 that will remain as merely a test platform for ATIL.

The DP18A is expected to have its first flight in July 2024, with other tests such as structure and equipment trials currently occurring.

As well as export customers, the UCAV is being aimed at a Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) requirement, and discussions with the force are ongoing. It can carry four air-launched weapons on its four under-wing hardpoints, with the “A” in its nomenclature indicating an attack capability.

A typical payload for the DP18A would be four AG-001 guided bombs, or two AG-002 (weighing 22kg each) and two AG-003 air-to-ground missiles (10kg each).

The AG-001 is made in Thailand, and two of these bombs were tested from an airborne DP16 UAV in July. Dropped at an altitude of 2.3km and at a 2km range, they hit a 5m² target with the aid of a laser designator.

The DP18A with maximum 200kg take-off weight can reach a speed of 200km/h and stay aloft for 12 hours. The DP18A utilises a portable ground control station with a 200km communication range.

Gp Cpt Nattapol Niyomthai of ATIL’s board of directors, explained that the entity was formed in 2021 when the Thai MoD-owned Defence Technology Institute (DTI) was authorised by the government to set up a company. DTI remains a shareholder, while ATIL is known to have a Chinese partner.

ATIL is coy about its Chinese linkages, but Asian Military Review understands the original partner was Beihang in China. However, Niyomthai said this was no longer the case. Although not yet confirmed, ATIL’s official partner may now be Norinco, after the Chinese conglomerate forged a strategic cooperation agreement with Beihang University on 16 September 2022.

ATIL also displayed in Bangkok the larger DP20 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV with a 13.4m wingspan. Niyomthai said this aircraft with 20-hour endurance would be trialled by the Royal Thai Army (RTA) later this year. Army personnel who trained on the DP20 platform graduated in July.

Two DP20s currently exist, these to be delivered to the RTA by the end of this year. Another two DP20A UCAVs are to be delivered within three years. These have a 250kg maximum take-off weight and an endurance of 20 hours.

Shown in graphic form only was a DP21A MALE platform, which is currently undergoing detailed design. This is a larger aircraft with a 20m wingspan and 300kg payload capacity. It will be able to carry munitions and it should make an appearance in around February 2025.

ATIL currently has 50 employees, but this number is growing, Niyomthai explained.

by Gordon Arthur