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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


MiG Skat

Sukhoi S-62
Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B

Tu-123 Yastreb DBR-1
Tu-139 Yastreb DBR-2
Tu-141 Strizh
Tu-143 Reys DR-3
Tu-243 Reys-D
Tu-300 Shock Drone

Yak-061 Shmel-1
Yak-133BR Proryv

Altair / Altius-M
AR-10 Argument
ZALA 421-16E5

The military operation in Syria confirmed some obvious flaws, primarily in the field of reconnaissance and target designation. For example, Russia had no long-range drones. Some believe that the overall effectiveness of Russian Armed Forces in Syria was limited more by reconnaissance capabilities, rather than by the number of aircraft and the power of weapons. Obviously, the speedy adoption of long-range drones and flight durations, including reconnaissance and strike drills, improving the capabilities of air and space reconnaissance, saturating the Russian aerospace forces with aviation high-precision guided weapons, equipping aircraft with container-based navigation, guidance and target designation, was obviously necessary.

The current Russian advantage in UAS capability stemmed largely from lessons learned in a past conflict: Russias 2008 war with Georgia. Though the Russians easily defeated Georgias tiny military, Georgian forces made extensive use of Israeli-made UAS in ISR roles, illustrating their potential to Russian forces. Soon after, the Russians implemented a massive UAS development program, buying large numbers of Israeli UAS and investing billions in domestic UAS programs. Despite their late start, Russias UAS program paid dividends in Ukraine. A U.S. Army spokesman, said in a recent interview, that Russian drones are a major contributing factor to the rebels extraordinarily accurate artillery.

The Russian military stressed a need for advanced reconnaissance systems in the wake of the brief military conflict with Georgia in August 2008, when the effectiveness of Russian military operations was severely hampered by a lack of reliable intelligence. The conflict in South Ossetia demonstrated that although Russian troops had overwhelming advantage in artillery and armoured troops, the reconnaissance and communications systems appeared to be the Achilles heel of Russian Army. The RF army still had not implemented pilotless reconnaissance vehicles, which NATO members and Georgia has already adopted. According to various estimates, the Russian military needed up to 100 UAVs and at least 10 guidance and control systems to ensure effective battlefield reconnaissance.

With skies contested by large numbers of highly lethal counter-air systems and a pressing need for full spectrum ISR, Moscow and Kiev both have deployed large numbers of UAS in support of their operations in the Crimea. Both sides are using unarmed reconnaissance drones to inform their forces about the opponents movements and positions. One UAS capability in particular has emerged as a substantial enabler: target acquisition for artillery. One analyst has described the UAS targeting of the Russian-backed separatists as the most significant difference-maker in a conflict between otherwise equal forces. Ukraines military had not invested heavily in UAS capabilities; as a result, Ukraines forces have resorted to improvising new homemade drones and buying whatever they can from allies and the commercial market. In contrast, Russianbacked rebels in Ukraine have access to cutting edge UAS technology. Moscow supplied these rebels with both indigenous Russian and foreign systems, including from Israel, France, and China. In addition, the rebels electronic warfare systems far exceed that of Ukraine, allowing the rebels to control the electromagnetic spectrum and effectively neutralize Ukrainian UAS while allowing their own freedom of maneuver.

Russian drones confirmed to be operating in the Crimea include the Orlan-10, the Granat-1, and the Takhion. All of these drones are tactical: they are physically small and fly low, slow profiles. All have modular ISR packages and all are used in conjunction with artillery units to increase accuracy in the target location and response in counterfire. Separatist forces claim that the Granat-1 doubles the accuracy of artillery battalions equipped with them. Typically, rebel forces are equipping artillery battalions with tactical UAS, usually at the target acquisition platoon. Russian tactical UAS can be moved into position and launched very quickly (< 20 minutes), allowing artillery battalions to utilize these systems in support of rapidly moving maneuver units. The systems utilize modular sensor suites allowing commanders to tailor the sensor to the mission and conditions; optical sensor s for good weather, IR or electronic surveillance for bade weather, audio and flash sensors for counterfire missions. These UAS digitally pass accurate target location data to their operators, who are closely integrated with shooters. Minimal restrictions allow shooters to engage and destroy targets rapidly, even when targets are concealed or hardened. Most of these UAS do not need to overfly hostile territory and conduct their ISR from standoff distances.

  • Light UAVs of medium range . A number of domestic samples can be attributed to this class of UAVs. Their mass varies between 50-100 kilograms. These include: T92M "Chibis", ZALA 421-09, Dozor-2, Dozor-4, Bee-1T.
  • Medium UAVs . The take-off weight of medium-sized UAVs ranges from 100 to 300 kilograms. They are designed for use at ranges of 150-1000 kilometers. In this class: M850 Astra, Binom, La-225 Komar, T04, E22M Berta, Berkut, Irkut-200.
  • Medium-weight UAVs. This class has a range of application similar to the UAVs of the previous class, but they have a slightly higher take-off weight - from 300 to 500 kilograms. This class includes: "Hummingbird", "Dunem", "Dan-Baruk", "Aist" ("Julia"), "Dozor-3".
  • Medium-range heavy UAVs. This class includes UAVs with a flight mass of 500 and more kilograms, designed for use at medium ranges of 70-300 kilometers. In the heavy class the following: Tu-243 "Flight-D", Tu-300, "Irkut-850", "Nart" (A-03).
  • Heavy UAVs of long duration flight. The category of unmanned aerial vehicles, which is quite popular, includes the American UAVs Predator, Reaper, GlobalHawk, Israeli Heron, Heron TP. There are practically no samples in Russia: Zond-3M, Zond-2, Zond-1, Sukhoi unmanned aerial systems (Bass), within which a robotic aviation complex (RAC) is being created.
  • Unmanned combat aircraft (UAF). Currently, the world is actively working on the creation of promising UAVs capable of carrying weapons on board and intended for strikes against ground and surface stationary and mobile targets in conditions of strong opposition from enemy air defense forces. They are characterized by a range of about 1,500 kilometers and a mass of 1,500 kilograms. By 2020 in Russia in this class are two projects were presented: "Proryv-U" and "Skat".

By 2012 two Russian companies, Tranzas Company in St. Petersburg and Sokol Design Bureau in Kazan were engaged in developing Predator-class drones. In 2011, they won the Russian Defence Ministrys tender and are developing two vehicles. The payload of the first is about one ton. The second one is close to the American Predator and weighs about 4.5-5.0 tons. Naturally, the characteristics of drones that should meet the Defence Ministrys demands have not been revealed. However, the designers will do their best to bring them close to the world standards. In short, they will be similar to other unmanned aerial vehicles, says editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based National Defence magazine Igor Korotchenko.

The main thing is to carry out hours-long flights and select targets as well as assure remote control and targeting by operators who are staying several thousand kilometers away from the drone. Consequently, there should be a satellite communication system. Concerning weapons that could be used for launching attacks, this issue has not been solved yet because the project is at its early stage. In Russia, UAVs will be used first and fore most in the North Caucus to monitor the situation and eliminate militant groups.

In the past years, UAVs have been actively developed in the world, and Russia will have to make great efforts to speed up work in this area. The price of an unmanned aerial vehicle is far less than that of a piloting plane. This type of plane can fly for several dozens of hours non-stop. This is impossible for manned aircraft. The main advantage of the use of UAVs is that it doesnt put the life of a pilot on the line.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in June 2013 that aerial drones being developed in Russia for the military were inferior to similar foreign models. Russia has reportedly signed two UAV contracts with Israel. Under the first contract, signed in April 2009, Israel delivered two Bird Eye 400 systems (worth $4 million), eight I View MK150 tactical UAVs ($37 million) and two Searcher Mk II multi-mission UAVs ($12 million). The second contract was for the purchase of 36 UAVs, worth a total of $100 million, to be delivered in 2010. The shipment, however, has not been confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Russia's Kronshtadt defense company has developed a new- generation heavy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for military purposes, a senior company official said on 04 August 2009. "The Kronshtadt engineers have developed a heavy Dozor-3 UAV with a lift-off weight of 600 kg and a payload of 100 kg, which could be used as a strike aircraft," said Viktor Godunov, member of the company's board of directors. "It can carry various types of reconnaissance equipment and weaponry," he added.

For comparison, the American MQ-9 Reaper hs a maximum takeoff weight 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms), and the Global Hawk has a maximum takeoff weight of 32,250 pounds (14628 kilograms). In 2011, the Tranzas won the Defense Ministry's tender for the development of two kinds of heavy drones, the "Pacer" and Altius-M, which weigh 1 metric tons and 5 metric tons, respectively.

The Russian military is planning to purchase aerial drones in the United Arab Emirates, a defense industry source said 17 July 2013. We are talking about at least two United 40 Block 5 models developed by the company ADCOM Systems, the source told RIA Novosti. United 40 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to carry out near real-time combat assessment, special and reconnaissance operations and communications relays. The vehicle can carry up to 10 air-to-ground missiles with a delivery range of 60 kilometers and fly for up to 120 hours, according to the developer. The United 40 Block 5 model was unveiled at the IDEX arms show in Abu Dhabi in February 2013, and the vehicle was first tested in flight in March. Its estimated cost is $20-30 million. ADCOM Systems, a group of firms headquartered in Abu Dhabi, specializes in manufacturing UAVs, aerial targets, air traffic control radar systems, and advanced communication systems.

In December 2014, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Russian military received 179 new UAVs in 2014, which was "almost as many as we received in all the previous years."

Russia's new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the Eleron, Orlan-10, Forpost and Gorizont drones, were to be unveiled at the inaugural Army-2105 international forum scheduled for June 2015, the Russian Defense Ministry said. "Complexes with unmanned aerial vehicles, both short and medium range, as well as helicopter drones will be presented as part of the first Army-2015 International Forum," the ministry's press release read. RAC "MiG" planned to submit to the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation proposals on the appearance of an unmanned aerial vehicle with a mass of 5 tons by the end of 2015. As reported in August 2015, Sergei Korotkov, who then held the post of general director of the company, research and development work to select the appearance of such a drone were conducted within the framework of the contract concluded with the agency. Later Ilya Tarasenko, General Director of RAC MiG, said that the Russian prospective interceptor PAK DP (a long-range long-range intercept aircraft), which is being developed to replace the MiG-31, could become unmanned in the future.

A new attack drone will be created by Sukhoi by 2018. The drone is currently under development. The new attack drone will weigh at least 20 tons. According to experts, Russia has the potential of creating the most advanced UAVs, but there are some problems.

The UAV being developed by Sukhoi will be based on technical solutions of fifth-generation fighter T -50. Work in this area is conducted by several firms. For example, "Sokol" experts plan to complete the creation of the UAV whose weight does not exceed five tons by 2015-2016. "Transas" company has been working on a one-ton drone since 2011. The developers are hurried by the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Experts believe that Russia is not lagging behind in this area. "From the point of view of theory, engineering and design ideas, we are not in the last place in the world," the vice -president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Issues Vladimir Anokhin told in October 2013.

According to him, "the Israelis who former Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov would like to purchase drones from, use metal in their UAVs. "Our scientists were the first, in fact, the only ones to create a UAV made from composite materials, which will enable them to not only be lighter and more durable, but also unreachable for the air defense radars," he said.

"We have wonderful teams that have spent decades working on this," said Vladimir Anokhin. "But we do not have enough hands. We do not have the industrial base, we do not have skilled workers who could produce a massive amount of those drones that we need so much now."

"Indeed, due to a number of reasons, the development of unmanned aerial vehicles in Russia has been somewhat neglected. Currently, the Ministry of Defense of Russia is working to remedy this situation by initiating and funding a program to create a range of UAVs of different types and class," Denis Fedutinov, a Russian expert in the field of unmanned systems, said in October 2013.

According to him, in the absence of official comments from both the developers and the military, the characteristics of the currently developed devices can be discussed only tentatively. "The niche of MALE-class UAVs is currently occupied by the projects implemented by "Transas" and "Sokol." This means that we are obviously talking about a larger UAV, that is likely comparable in terms of weight and size with the parameters of the projects of Boeing (Phantom Ray) and Northrop Grumman (X-47B)," said the expert.

"In addition, we know that the prototype of an attack drone "Skat" shown by "MiG" a few years ago at one of MAKS airshows had a declared take-off weight of 10 tons. I think "Sukhoi" company that, compared to "MIG," so to speak, performed in a heavier weight category, will offer a heavy drone with a possible take-off weight of about 20 tons," said Denis Fedutinov.

Responding to a question about the purpose of such drones, he said that a parallel with the aforementioned US attack drone programs created for pinpoint strikes on various stationary and moving targets both on land and at sea during periods when the opponent has a working air defense system was possible. According to Vladimir Anokhin, "this is an opportunity to expand the capabilities of the Air Force and aviation as a whole.... Drones can be sent to combat zones, to explore and carry out regular observations, without risking human lives. This is the next step in the development of aviation that has future".

The Russian military is putting the finishing touches to its very own heavy military UAV. The drone is part of a wider modernization effort. The drone already exists, according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov in January 2015. The heavy UAV, created in cooperation with the Federal Security Service (FSB), will perform a variety of tactical, operational and strategic tasks, said Borisov, but he didnt give any further details such as the name of the vehicle.

Russia has almost caught up on its foreign rivals in respect to manufacturing military unmanned aerial vehicles, Borisov said 07 September 2016. "Just a few years ago, we were criticized for lagging seriously behind in this area. As of today, I think we have almost caught up," Borisov told Rossiya 24 broadcaster in an interview on the sidelines of the Army-2016 international military forum. He added that Russia had reached the level of top world armies in drone manufacturing.

American analyst Samuel Bendett of CNA (Center for Naval Analysis) believed that Russian developments of military unmanned aerial vehicles lag behind similar foreign works, but recognizes the country's leadership in the electronic warfare, according to Breaking Defense in October 2017. According to Bendett, in developing unmanned systems, Russians still lag behind "from the Chinese, Iranians and Turks", as well as Americans. The expert gave several examples.

According to Bendett, the development of the first Russian heavy drones Altair is behind schedule and does not fit into the budget, as a result of which the creation of the product may be delayed. The expert noted that just before the report of the director of the enterprise creating the combat drones, the Kazan OKB named after Simonov, was removed from his post (in fact, the documents were seized at the bureau, and investigators talked with Alexander Gomzin, his supervisor).

The drone Orion is suspiciously similar to the Iranian Shahed. The main Russian drones "Forpost" is borrowed from Israel, where the name Searcher is produced by the IAI concern. The specialist notes that drones developed directly in Russia are usually smaller in size than foreign ones.

The Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) MiG is working to create shock and reconnaissance drones weighing from 1 to 15 tons, their prototypes will appear in the coming years. This was announced on 14 November 2017 by the official representative of the corporation Anastasia Kravchenko at the exhibition Dubai Airshow 2017. "These are reconnaissance and strike targets, different classes for different tasks," she said, answering the relevant question. Kravchenko added that prototype drones will be created "in the coming years." These devices will be in three categories - from one ton to five, from five to ten and from ten to fifteen.

The interlocutor of Interfax informed about the tests of heavy drone UAV "Altius-O" weighing more than 7.5 tons, developed by the Kazan OKB named after Simonov. Deputy General Director of Techmash (part of Rostek) Alexander Kochkin told Interfax in March 2018 that the concern had begun developing a combat load for unmanned vehicles, which could be either short-range weapons or air bombs.

The general designer and vice-president of UAC Innovation, Sergey Korotkov, told Interfax in December 2017 that Russia is working on creating drone drones that can be organized into groups and coordinated among themselves through secure communication channels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at the Russian Defense Ministry's board in late 2017 that, with the implementation of the new state weapons program, special emphasis will be placed on equipping troops with precision weapons, unmanned strike complexes, as well as with the newest systems of reconnaissance, communications and electronic warfare.

In October 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported on plans to equip the Russian Armed Forces with shock drones. "In the near future, to equip the Armed Forces will begin to receive complexes with multi-functional unmanned aerial vehicles, capable of solving not only reconnaissance but also shock tasks," Shoigu said.

Currently, the largest UAV, which is in service with the VCS and the Ground Forces, is the "Outpost". A drone weighing 456 kilograms is produced at the Ural Civil Aviation Plant under an Israeli license. The length of the glider is 5.85 meters, the wingspan is 8.55 meters, the flight duration is 16 hours.

The Syrian operation revealed a shortage of heavy-duty vehicles. However, the Ministry of Defense was concerned about Russia's lag in the field of drones long before the transfer of troops to the UAR. In the middle and at the end of the 2000s, projects were launched to develop several promising devices at once.

In coming years, the troops get the UAV "Zenica" weighing about one ton, drone "Pacer" weighing 1.2 tons, a five-ton machine "Altair" (design bureau named Simon, and the company "Kronstadt") and 20-ton hammer drone "Hunter" ( the offspring of the Sukhoi Design Bureau), made according to the "flying wing" scheme.

As the experts note, Russia has lagged far behind in the sphere of unmanned aircraft from the United States, Israel, a number of Western countries and even China. At the same time, the intensive efforts of the Ministry of Defense and the OPK will at least reduce the distance to 5-10 years, and the testing ground in the form of a Syrian operation will help test the latest technology in real combat.

In Russia, several types of unmanned strike ["percussion"] aircraft are being developed: in addition to the Orion (1 ton weight) and the Carnivors (150 kg mass), this reconnaissance-impact drone weighing up to 5 tons Altair and the sixth-generation heavy drone (weight up to 20 tons was announced). Also at the Victory Parade on May 9, 2018, the Corsair and Katran shock drones were displayed. The Russian Air Force is to receive its first unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) into service by 2020. It was expected as of June 2014 that state trials or field tests of the new UCAVs may start in 2017. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov, research and development work for this project is now nearly complete. Drone fighters are able to tackle strategic tasks because they are difficult to detect and have better combat sustainability than manned aircraft.

Moscow was an undisputed leader in this field: In the 1980s, it manufactured 950 Tu-143 reconnaissance UAVs alone. However, the Defense Ministry then wound up drone production, since it no longer had either the money or ideological reasons to commission this type of aircraft. It was the Americans who prompted the Russian military to revive the program. Successful U.S. operations with the use of UAVs in Afghanistan and Pakistan have shown that no war of the future can be conducted without drones. Another impulse behind Russias drive to develop its own UCAVs was the 2008 war in South Ossetia. When the Russian Defense Ministry saw that the Georgian side was using Israeli drones, it concluded that this type of aircraft was essential for the new century.

The first tender for developing UCAVs was announced. It was awarded to several design bureaus. The Yakovlev design bureau presented drafts of an unmanned combat air vehicle called Skad. In its appearance and technical characteristics, it was very similar to the American X-47 model. Its main characteristics were announced to be the following: maximum take-off weight, 10 tons; range, 4,000 km; a flight speed of at least 800 km per hour. It will be capable of carrying two air-to-surface/anti-radiation missiles or two smart bombs with a total weight of no more than one ton.

The second winner was the Sukhoi design bureau with a project called the X-40. There is very little information about it available. Its design is likely to "inherit" characteristics from the famous Su fighters and to become a prototype for a sixth-generation fighter. This is what Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov has indicated, hinting that the future strike aircraft will be created on the basis of technologies used in the fifth-generation fighter T-50.

In mid-February 2014, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the ministry intended to spend 320 billion rubles (about $8.8 billion) by 2020 on a program of supplying the Russian armed forces with unmanned aerial vehicles. It is not clear which specific UAVs this money will be used to purchase. All recent exhibitions of unmanned combat air vehicles for the Defense Ministry have consisted of two parts. The first is an open one, presenting tactical and semistrategic aircraft, which are frequently manufactured under license or use an imported component base. These are usually dual-purpose UAVs.

The second is a closed one, where ministry officials have been able to see strategic aircraft. At one of such exhibitions, according to a source close to the Defense Ministry, Shoigu was shown a solar-powered strategic aircraft. The drone was so big that it could not be brought to the exhibition and was shown to the defense minister via a video link. Experts point out that the fact that some exhibitions are held behind closed doors indicates that Russia has prototypes that it is best not to publicize. All the more so, since a drone's main strength lies not in its aerodynamic characteristics but in the intellectual content of the software used to operate it.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2020 17:59:16 ZULU