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Russian unmanned ‘reconnaissance killer’ performs combat missions with AI

MOSCOW, (BM) – In the arsenal of the Russian Aerospace Forces will appear unmanned “reconnaissance killer.” The Altius shock drone will be equipped with artificial intelligence elements and will be “taught” to remotely interact with the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter.

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The apparatus will be able to lay a route without human intervention bypassing the enemy’s air defense, find and attack the most important targets (headquarters, communication centers, missile launchers) and return unscathed to the base. Experts believe that the new features will turn Altius into a universal weapon.

Smarter drone

As sources in the military-industrial complex told Izvestia, the development of an updated version of the Altius heavy reconnaissance-drone drone has already begun. It will be equipped with elements of artificial intelligence. It will be possible to remotely control it from a Su-57 fighter. The necessary equipment for the drone will be installed before the end of the year, after which technical tests will begin.

The upgraded Altius will be able to strike on its own. Having received the coordinates of the target, the UAV on-board computer will calculate the optimal flight route to the attack target and the ammunition discharge point using algorithms. In this case, the drone will take into account information received from the headquarters in real time about the location of enemy air defense systems and the air situation. Such an opportunity should help reduce the loss of drones in conflicts with an enemy with serious air defense systems.

After the combat mission is completed, the UAV can automatically return to the patrol zone, calculating the most secure route.

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Now drones at all stages of the flight are controlled by ground crews. Elements of artificial intelligence will reduce the load on operators in long flights. This is especially true for Altius class devices – they can be in the air without landing for more than a day.

The UAV will also be useful for use in conjunction with manned aircraft. In September last year, the Ministry of Defense has already demonstrated the joint actions of the latest fifth-generation fighter Su-57 and a 20-ton strike drone S-70 “Hunter”.

Now the opportunity will be given to Altius. Thanks to the instruments, the pilot will be able to detect targets and transmit coordinates to the drone via a secure communication line. After that, the aircraft will be ready to perform the combat mission on its own, without operator intervention.

As Izvestia previously wrote, the Altius family will receive the Thunder powerful planning bombs. In terms of effectiveness, they surpass conventional 500-pound high-explosive fragmentation ammunition and are capable of accurately hitting targets from a distance of up to 120 km.

With this weapon, UAVs can attack the most important objects in the rear of the enemy. Its targets will be headquarters, radars, missile and air defense systems, land-based cruise missile launchers, etc.

Such drones are not intended to fight terrorists, but to confront parts of the world’s leading armies, said Vadim Kozyulin, professor of the Academy of Military Sciences.

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“At a certain stage, Russia lagged behind in the development of shock drones and the practice of their application,” the expert told Izvestia. – Now we, in fact, skipping the tactical link, begin to create strategic systems. This UAV is not inferior to similar developments in the United States, Britain and China. For example, in America they are developing a project of the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie drone. In conventional aviation, ammunition, reconnaissance equipment, electronic warfare are placed on one device, and this makes it very expensive. And one pilot has to service such equipment. The loss of such an aircraft is very expensive. The modern idea is that you can make several partner UAVs that will take part of the load. They will be closer to the enemy, it is better to see him and, if necessary, will take a hit on themselves. In this situation, the person will remain alive, and the equipment, if lost, is cheaper”.

Hard way to the series

Altius is a medium-sized device that is one of the three largest shock drones of Russian design. From the very beginning of the project, UAVs have been plagued by problems, so it has not yet been put into serial production.

An order for a drone weighing six tons was received in 2011 by Kazan JSC Simonov Research and Development Bureau. By the end of 2014, research work was completed. The company began manufacturing three flight prototypes and testing them.

But then the enterprise ran into difficulties. In particular, due to sanctions against Russia, German diesel aircraft engines, which they planned to equip the drone, were not available.

At the end of 2018, the project was transferred from Kazan to the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA). This company already has extensive experience in the manufacture of UAVs. It was assembling several dozen middle-class reconnaissance drones “Outpost”. They also engaged in the development of its localized and improved version of Outpost-R.

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The Yekaterinburg plant in 2019 presented a modified version of the Altius-U drone, equipped with a satellite communications system. With its use, the UAV flight range will be limited only by the fuel supply. This will allow the device to fully reveal its strike potential and will make it possible to attack targets hundreds and thousands of kilometers from its base.

In December last year, the Ministry of Defense signed a contract with UZGA JSC for the development of Altius-RU UAV. This version should take into account all the latest industry achievements and military requirements. It will become the basis for the production of serial heavy drones for the Russian Armed Forces. It is planned that such drones will go into service not only the VKS, but also the fleet.

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