Heavy Altius drone to operate in autonomous regime

Altius attack drone will have artificial intelligence elements to interact with fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jets. It will lay routes to bypass air defense without human interference, find and attack important targets (headquarters, communication hubs, missile launchers) and return to the base. Experts believe the new capabilities will develop Altius into a universal weapon, the Izvestia daily writes.

Heavy Altius drone to operate in autonomous regime 01 Altius-U (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Defense industry sources said the design of the upgraded Altius option had begun. It will have artificial intelligence and Su-57 fighter jets will be able to remotely control it. The equipment will be installed by the end of the year and tests will begin.

The upgraded Altius can deliver strikes independently. It obtains coordinates and calculates the best flight route to the target and the release point. The drone takes into consideration the information about the air situation and adversary air defense supplied by the headquarters in real time. It will decrease drone losses in conflicts with the adversary armed with a powerful air defense. After the mission, the drone can automatically return to the patrol area by the safest route.

At present, ground operators control all flight stages of all drones. The artificial intellect will decrease the load on operators in long flights. Altius can fly non-stop for over a day.

The drone will operate together with manned aircraft. In September 2019, the Defense Ministry demonstrated joint actions of Su-57 and 20-ton Okhotnik combat drone. Altius will get the same capability. The pilots will detect a target and transmit coordinates to a drone by protected communication channels. The drone will fulfil the combat mission itself without human interference.

Altius will be armed with a family of Grom gliding bombs. They exceed ordinary 500-kg high-explosive fragmentation bombs in firepower and can hit targets at a distance of 120 km. They will target headquarters, radars, missile and air defense, ground-based cruise missile launchers, etc.

Such drones will be engaged in a standoff with the leading armies rather than terrorists, expert Vadim Kozyulin said. “Russia lagged behind in the design and engagement of drones. Today we bypass the tactical level and create strategic drones. They do not cede to US, British and Chinese designs. Ordinary aviation carries munitions, reconnaissance means, electronic warfare in one aircraft which is very expensive. It is costly to lose it. The modern idea calls to create several drones operating together with the aircraft and taking over a part of the load. They will be closer to the adversary and see it better. They can bear the brunt of an attack, if necessary. A human will survive. Cheap hardware may be lost,” he said.

Altius is one of the three Russian combat drones. It has faced problems since the beginning of the design and no batch production has begun therefore.

In late 2018, the project was moved from Kazan to the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA). The enterprise is experienced in drone production. It produced several Forpost reconnaissance drones and dealt with the localized and upgraded Forpost-R option.

In 2019, the enterprise in Yekaterinburg presented an upgraded Altius-U option with satellite communications. Now the range is limited only by the fuel reserve. The satellite equipment will allow the drone to attack targets hundreds and thousands kilometers away from its base.

In December 2019, the Defense Ministry and UZGA signed a contract for Altius-RU R&D. It has to take into account all the latest achievements and requirements of the military. It will be the basis for the production of heavy drones for the Russian armed forces. The drones are to be supplied to the Aerospace Forces and the Navy, the Izvestia said.

Heavy Altius drone to operate in autonomous regime 02 Altius-U in flight (Picture source: Russian MoD)

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