Russia focuses on aerial swarms and attacking UAVs

MOSCOW, (BM)“To increase the capacity of our troops to perform the tasks entrusted to us, the creation of multi-tasking unmanned aerial vehicles of various classes is coming to an end,” said Andrei Krivoruchko, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.

After the armed forces saturated with small platforms, now mainly extensive reconnaissance and strike airframes and their guided weapons are being developed, learned citing Defence24. Russian unmanned aerial vehicles operate within groups or “swarms” and cooperate with crewed aircraft and autonomous land and sea platforms.

As deputy minister Krivorukhko said, the Russian armed forces had already saturated with small and miniature unmanned aerial vehicles. Their use has “become commonplace” both on a tactical and strategic level. Russia created special units, and staff training began.

Russian unmanned aerial vehicles under attack

Unmanned aerial vehicles are used not only for reconnaissance and artillery guidance but also in electronic warfare systems. More and more often, they also take part in the direction of guided weapons or conduct strike missions themselves. In the latter role, Moscow recently revealed the combat use of Russian circulating Lancet and Kub ammunition produced by the Kalashnikov concern in Syria. It confirmed satisfactory effectiveness and, as the deputy minister says, deliveries of more batches of this type of weaponry to Russian units are currently underway. A new, larger class of machines with impact capabilities attracted the Ministry of Defense’s attention.

Currently, great importance is attached to the development of large-scale assault unmanned aerial vehicles. First of all, it concerns the existing complexes of the UAV “Altius,” “Inochodiec,” and “Forpost” in the version equipped with guided weapons. Testing these complexes in real conditions, using small-size homing ammunition, showed their high efficiency.

“On their basis, enterprises are currently developing new generation reconnaissance and strike systems, equipped with guided weapons and satellite communication. […] By the end of 2021, we will deliver complexes of multifunctional long-range drones with high flight duration to the Russian Armed Forces’ equipment, both in guided aviation weapons, used in tactical aviation, and specialized ammunition. Their use will allow for precise strikes not only on stationary but also moving targets,” Andrei Krivoruchko, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.

The Russian deputy minister emphasizes the importance of “bigger” unmanned aerial vehicles currently underway. Russian army significantly intensified this area in the last months of 2020 and at the beginning of this year. In October, the armed forces received the first Orion machines (Izdielije 90), the Russian equivalent of the American MQ-1 Predator machines created under the Unmanned research program Medium-Range System. “Inochodiec,” which was mentioned by the minister. In December, information was released about tests, during which Russian forces used Orion to dropping impressive 20 kg KAB-20 light guided bombs and to launch Ch-50 guided missiles.

Moscow developed both types of weapons, especially for unmanned aerial vehicles with a low payload. There is no information about the Forpost system’s armament, i.e. the licensed, field-mounted variant of the Israeli Searcher II, which has been in service for many years by the Russian armed forces. Probably, however, the bombs developed for Orion could also hit his armament.

More range, more weapons

The third of the systems mentioned above, the UAV Altius, is much more ambitious. Unlike Orion, it is a machine that has not yet entered service but is still under research. However, this is the system that Krivoruczko talks about the most. Altius is a MALE class machine with a long flight duration of at least 48 hours, and thanks to the use of a satellite link, Russia can use it anywhere in the world. Machines of this type have a load capacity of over 1000 kg of weapons, including special bombs and rockets developed for unmanned aerial vehicles and weapons typical for combat aircraft. These are to be 9-A-7759 Grom rocket-assisted gliding bombs with a range of up to 120 km, and in the naval version, the Ch-35U Uran anti-ship missiles with a range of over 250 km. In both cases, the Altius will be able to carry a maximum of two such weapons.

Interestingly, the Russian deputy minister does not mention the S-70 Ochotnik attack drone. Referring to the Orion machines and the heavier Helios and Orion-2 systems developed by Kronsztad, Krivoruczko states – “As for the opinion that the developed low-speed UAVs with screw engines are outdated, it is controversial. The complex’s functionality determines the presence on board of proper reconnaissance and control measures, the quality and safety of the data transmission channel, and the use of artificial intelligence elements. “

Summarizing this topic, Deputy Minister Krivoruczko emphasized that as important as unmanned aerial vehicles’ operational capabilities is to ensure not only high parameters but also the potential for – “their serial production and repair, which complicates the task at the development stage.” All this is a kind of justification for delays in the field of unmanned programs. Still, at the same time, there are declarations regarding further directions of development. They include, among others, arming the UAV with long-range missiles, ensuring the possibility of implementing strategic tasks and the wide use of artificial intelligence. The AI must create a swarm strategy and facilitate drones in the shared airspace with operated machines.

Research is already being carried out on, for example, cooperation with unmanned attack helicopter systems or the collaboration of the latest generation Su-57 aircraft with the S-70 Ochotnik stealth unmanned aerial vehicle. However, as it seems, they are in a relatively early stage, and while, for example, Apache Guardian helicopters can use unmanned platforms, the Mi-28NM is only developing such capabilities.


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