Russia is developing military unmanned vehicles, but is still lagging behind Turkey

This post was published in VPK. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – The world military community has been seized by faith in unmanned aerial vehicles – being of different sizes and purposes, in the event of mass use, they are de-capable of deciding the outcome of almost any war. There is a certain reason for this, and so far the few cases of the use of UAVs for shock operations seem to confirm the trend. What is being done in this direction in the Russian Federation?

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The development of UAVs is really a very promising direction, believes Maxim PANTELEEV, deputy chief designer of the Sirius project at Kronshtadt JSC, and it must expand. The main advantage is that drones, solving practically the same tasks as conventional military aviation, save the lives of personnel. And over time, unmanned aircraft in their capabilities will at least be equal to manned aircraft, and in some ways it may be able to do more.

Maxim Panteleev considers the main problem that hinders the development of domestic UAVs for various purposes and which all aviation enterprises focused on the creation of defense technology face is the component base, primarily microelectronic, which is essentially not produced in our country. Thank God, the production of carbon fiber reinforced plastics began to develop, and the same Kronstadt established its own production of composite products from domestic components (carbon fibers and plasticizing resins).

It is clear that the Ministry of Defense, as a customer, has one of the main requirements for the lack of imported components in the products supplied to the army. So far, it has been possible to bring the level of the domestic component base up to eighty percent, but in the samples that will be adopted for service, the Russian localization of production should be one hundred percent.

Gradually, in Russian unmanned programs, specialization in directions is being formed, after all, miniature reconnaissance drones released from the fist and heavy shock and reconnaissance vehicles patrolling for a long time have much more differences than common places. Niche “Kronstadt” – the dimension of the apparatus is about a ton. The newest Sirius drone presented at Army-2020 belongs to the reconnaissance-percussion class, and turboprop engines for it – and this is the weak point of all domestic models – is specially developed by one of the domestic enterprises.

So far, in a practical sense, the idea, which was studied in the USSR in the creation of the first cruise missiles in the 50s, has not been considered, namely the production of heavy UAVs on the basis of already existing manned aircraft. Since the most expensive thing on the plane is the pilot, it seems reasonable to use the available equipment to solve the most risky tasks, taking it under “external control”. Moreover, there are no fundamentally insoluble problems in this, the task is purely engineering. But, according to Maxim Panteleev, it will be necessary to take into account the lag of the operator’s reaction speed from the pilot. Yes, 400 milliseconds is a little bit, but not for air battles.

There may be problems with communication channels, with the range, but experts who have considered the possibility of implementing this direction, consider them quite solvable. And so, taking into account such restrictions and the range of potential tasks, almost any modern aircraft can be turned into an effective drone. Expensive, of course, but in a difficult moment of life it may turn out that training a qualified operator is faster and more profitable than training a pilot.

The lag of the Russian Federation in terms of creating a range of drone UAVs becomes simply shameful. The first use of the armed Predator drone by the Americans was in February 2002, when Mullah Omar was killed. Then the Yankees began to literally hunt for the leaders of al-Qaeda with the help of flying robots. What is the USA! Even the Turks and those successfully use shock UAVs to hunt Russian-made air defense systems.

Belarus showed a light drone bomber and a flying bomb Busel M-40 at Army-2020. And the Russian Federation is just approaching the creation of an armed drone. And there is no trace of our UAVs hunting for the heads of the leaders of Ukrainian volunteers, drone strikes from the DPR and LPR on the firing positions of punitive forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass. Dove and in Syria this is also not observed: penny targets have to be destroyed with the help of extremely expensive “Calibers”.

“VPK” has already written about the reasons for the lag of the Russian Federation, mentioning corruption and inertness of both the bureaucracy and the generals among the main ones. Nobody has organized an open competition among private developers. But here’s another reason: in the “rising from its knees” the Russian Federation, supposedly intimidating the West to death with its miracle weapon, actually does not have its own advanced microelectronics!

And this is critically important for the creation of Russian attack drones. They are much more needed in real wars than all these techno-chimeras (like the nuclear-powered Petrel missile launcher or the “doomsday torpedo”), which are unlikely to come in handy. But UAVs in irregular conflicts of the Fourth World War (hybrid) are a weapon of everyday life.

But why hasn’t the Russian electronics industry been restored in Russia for all Putin’s oil-rich years? After all, the USSR, which could not even dream of trillions of oil revenues, the production of a modern electronic base was developing. Even if we lagged behind the West a little, and the quality needed to be improved, but the industry itself was there. Moreover, Gorbachev’s collapse interrupted the impressive breakthrough of Russian electronics.

The solution to the problem lies in the general industrialization of the country. For its own top-class microelectronics to flourish in the Russian Federation, it needs an extensive consumer market. That is, the country should make not only weapons, but also a lot of peaceful products that use silicon chips. That is, telephones, audio systems and televisions, various devices and medical equipment, machine tools and processing centers, industrial robots and household appliances, communications and agricultural machines, construction equipment and cars. We need to make drones for agricultural work.

Plus a lot of smart systems for housing and communal services, traffic management, etc. Then the Russian electronic industry will be able to rise, then investments in it will become profitable. As it was in the Soviet Union or in developed countries today. In this case, the defense industry will receive an advanced component base.

Until this strategic stupidity is corrected, the Russian Federation will continue to lag behind. Including weapons. You can’t cover that with layouts.


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