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Altair / Altius-M / Altius-O / Altius-U

The Altair drone was supposed to be the Russian response to Western developments, in particular the American intelligence drone RQ-4 Global Hawk. The device weighing three tons with a wingspan of 28.5 meters can carry a load of up to two tons, cover a distance of 10 thousand kilometers, rise to an altitude of 12 kilometers and be in autonomous flight for up to two days.

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 sophisticated drone will be capable of performing reconnaissance missions and destroying targets that have been detected, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to the Russian News Service network. "We are finalizing research and development work related to the drones that will solve an array of tactical, operational and strategic tasks," Borisov commented 25 January 2015. He explained that the new UAVs will be put into service by the Russian Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service, also known as the FSB. He declined to elaborate on the drone's technical characteristics.

The preliminary contract to design the new-generation UAV with a takeoff weight of around 5 tons and maximum speed of up to 950 kilometers an hour was granted to the Simonov Design Bureau (SDB) in Kazan. The SDB was working on the Altair heavy drone developed as part of the Altius Project. It is a medium-altitude craft with an extended flight range of up to 48 hours. "Even though this is only a preliminary project we are talking about, with sufficient financing the designers would be able to land an additional contract to bring their work up to a new level, Denis Fedutinov, a leading expert in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles, told RIA 26 December 2017. He added that while the Altair drone brings to mind the US-made Reaper, the new UAV could be compared with the Avenger unmanned combat air vehicle built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US military.

The Kazan-based JSC NPO OKB imeni M.P.Simonov [experimental design bureau named after Simonov] (until April 2014 OJSC OKB Sokol) won the tender of the Defense Ministry for a research and development program for creation of a drone with weight of up to 5 tons worth 1 billion rubles in 2011. The five-year contract on the experimental and designing program was signed in 2013.

In 2016, Altair drone had the maiden flight. According to a person close to the Defense Ministry, in the course of development weight of the drone grew to 7 tons. The first prototype began flight tests in July 2016, but in December they were suspended. They were planned to resume in the spring and summer of 2017, taking into account the improvements.

South Front believed it is not surprising that Russia had started a painstaking work in the field of creating drones for military needs. The best examples at the moment are the UAV "Altair" and "Altius-M". These models are able to stay in the air for a long time and fly over the territory with a cruising speed of 250 km / h, transferring a huge amount of data.

In addition, the Altius-M model, thanks to two powerful engines, is capable of carrying not only radar reconnaissance means but radars as well, which can transmit any information to repeaters, satellites and land-based means at a speed of 30 mb / s. Russia's grandiose plans to equip the UAV with various technologies and weapons will make the Russian Federation one of the leaders in creating unmanned military vehicles, the publication concluded.

The Defense Ministry's competition for research work (R & D) worth 1 billion rubles for the creation of UAVs with a weight of up to 5 tons OKB (then called OKB Sokol) was won in October 2011. The theme was called Altius-M, and the plane itself was Altair. Experts believe that this is the prototype of an apparatus intended for reconnaissance, surveillance, reconnaissance and, at the same time, possessing shock capabilities.

Altair UAV Altair UAV Altair UAV Altair UAV

This was never done in Russia, and the victory of the provincial bureau prompted questions immediately. First, in the contest, Kazan managed to bypass such an aircraft-building grandee as OJSC "Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG", which even tried to protest the decision of the military in the Moscow Arbitration. MiG filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Defense and the "Falcon" with the requirement to invalidate the placement of state orders. But the claims of the MiG were called ungrounded. by the court Secondly, OKB im. Simonov, of course, is a firm with experience (it was founded in 1959, and it was engaged in unmanned themes in 1968), but its products were always target planes. Thirdly, the financial condition of the company on the eve of the contest was catastrophic, it was going to bankruptcy. And then the company received an order from the Defense Ministry and in 2012 showed an impressive increase in revenue - 616.9% - from 126 million to 907 million rubles.

And then in the aircraft building circles there was all sorts of talks. For example, that for the creation of a glider for drones Kazan OKB ordered some foreign (presumably German) firm. Say, there is nothing surprising in this - there is nobody in the OKB to do it, and there is no base. "Imagine yourself in their place," one source said, "you received money for complex developments, you are trying to make them in Russian conditions and you realize with horror that nowhere is nothing left and you can fly over capital. So today the role of the OKB is writing technical tasks and searching for those who will implement them for the money that the military has allocated."

It is presumed that it will have flight duration of up to 48 hours, distance of communication (without satellite channel) of up to 450 kilometers and cargo capacity of up to 2 tons, which will allow creation of a strike version. According to the top manager of Rostec, money of the Defense Ministry is not enough for development (more than 2 billion rubles already spent) and so the design bureau had an idea of inclusion of a civil version of Altair that could be use for monitoring of the Arctic regions into some civil state programs for obtaining of financing worth 1.5-2 billion rubles. According to the design bureau, this will allow creation of a model of the drone and starting of its production in 2020.

At the end of 2016, the OKB presented a project in the Strategic Initiatives Agency, specifically in the National Technology Initiative (STI) project, "Creation and implementation of an air monitoring complex for the extensive infrastructure of the Arctic and other regions on the basis of unmanned aerial vehicles takeoff weight of more than 7 tons. " And the feds were asked to include the project in the STI program for the development of the Aeronet market and, accordingly, the allocation of money to it, presumably, about 2 billion rubles. It was assumed that the civil version of Altius-M was invented in order to compensate for the costs of the military project, which probably exceeded the calculated ones.

Developer of military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Kazan-based OKB imeni Simonov requested the government to finance the civil version of the system. Top manager of an enterprise of Rostec and two persons close to the Defense Ministry reported this in May 2017. Representative of the Ministry of Industry and Trade said that there were no such requests received from this company.

Editor of Unmanned Aviation Denis Fedutinov presumes that in Russia with its adverse climatic conditions, big territory and long border such drones may be demanded. Besides fulfillment of special tasks for the military and border guards in Arctic this drone can also be used for monitoring of big area and long linear objects, provision of seafaring along the Northern Sea Route etc. Konstantin Makienko from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies adds that all developed countries wish to have such drones now but only a few companies make them. The Defense Ministry has a right to demand observance of the deadlines from the design bureau but there is no alternative now and it is worth supporting this project at expense of less priority and more expensive projects, the person close to the Defense Ministry said.

Denis Fedutinov, a leading Russian expert in the field of unmanned systems, told Business Gazette in 2017: "The system with a heavy UAV, the creation of which works in the design bureau named after Simonov, has a high degree of novelty. This is superimposed on the fact that competence in this area in Russia is still insignificant, plus a not very good economic situation in the country, plus a not very good situation with scientific and technical personnel - all this together makes it possible that the terms can move to the right for objective reasons . Thus, despite the fact that the delay in the implementation of the project is an annoying factor, the military, in charge of armaments, in particular Deputy Minister Yuri Borisov, in my view, are aware of all the circumstances described. However, in my opinion, it is hardly to be expected that any fatal consequences for the program of a heavy UAV - at the present stage - actually the need for such kind of systems has not gone anywhere."

Flight tests of the first prototype demonstrator "Altair" (tail number 01) began in July 2016. In May 2017, the second prototype of the drone was demonstrated (02). The Russian military spent more than three billion rubles on the development of the Altair, but in October 2018 the project was reportedly abandoned. The freezing of the project of the Russian heavy shock flying UAV caused by a lack of funds for high-tech microelectronics, wrote the weekly Zvezda. "The shortage of modern microprocessors, sensors, software products that meet the modern requirements has all recently put an end to the promising project of a heavy attack and reconnaissance drone," the newspaper wrote.

Seemingly the reports of the death of this project have been greatly exaggerated.

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The Russian Defence Ministry posted a video of the maiden flight of a 6-tonne Altius-U drone, capable of being in the air for more than 24 hours. A 1 minute and 3 second video was posted on the ministry's YouTube channel 20 August 2019. The video shows the drone's flight and manoeuvres in the sky, as well as landing. Altius-U is the final form of this unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), created as a result of the development and testing of a number of prototypes. The flight took place for 32 minutes at an altitude of up to 800 metres in fully automatic mode at one of the test aerodromes. All systems of the complex worked properly, the Ministry of Defence noted. According to the report, the complex is capable of performing an entire spectrum of reconnaissance missions using optical, radio engineering and radar and can stay in the air for more than a day. A feature of the complex is the use of a satellite control channel, making the radius of its application practically unlimited.

Altius-U will be the backbone of the fleet of Russian heavy drones, the Izvestia daily reported in September 2019.



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