Russian Air Force reconnaissance squadrons to be equipped with drones

The Russian Defense Ministry decided to gradually rearm reconnaissance squadrons of the Aerospace Forces with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). At present, they operate Sukhoi Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft. They may be replaced with Inokhodets and Altius drones, the Izvestia daily writes quoting Defense Ministry sources.

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Russian Air Force reconnaissance squadrons to be equipped with drones

Altius-U drone (Picture source: Russian MoD)

The decision in principle about the rearmament has been made. The squadrons will be armed with the latest long-range drones, which will detect the adversary by onboard optical-electronic systems and by the electronic emission of the objects. The rearmament deadline has not been disclosed, as drones have to complete trials and begin batch production.

The Defense Ministry is not going to fully abandon manned reconnaissance aircraft. Su-34 frontline bombers can do the job after an upgrade by the Sych R&D, which will make them operate unified reconnaissance containers. They were designed in three options: optical-electronic, radio-technical, and radar. The equipment will detect ground, sea and air targets in any weather at a bigger range. The first upgraded aircraft have already been supplied to the Central Military District.

Expert Viktor Murakhovsky said drones will increase the combat capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Forces. At present, manned reconnaissance aviation is at a minimal level by the number and quality of the aircraft. “The equipment of Soviet-built Su-24MR does not meet modern requirements. Reconnaissance and combat drones will change the situation. Russian Altius Universal (Altius-U) drone has a major flight duration and range. It can carry optical-electronic and radar equipment. The rearmament will expand reconnaissance capabilities of the Russian aviation,” he said.

Long-range Altius is the biggest drone designed in Russia. It has a 28.5-meter wingspan and is 11.6-meter long. The takeoff weight is close to 7 tons. The drone can fly 48 hours at an altitude of up to 12,000 meters with a cruising speed of 150-250 km/h. The range is close to 10 thousand kilometers. New radars and optical-electronic systems provide around-view monitoring at a major distance.

Altius can engage in a whole range of reconnaissance missions with optical, radio and radar means. The drone can find targets at sea and in the coastal area and provide guidance to various weapons in real-time, as well as monitor the results of strikes.

The military considers the use of Altius as a reconnaissance-strike drone. In the future, it will be able to independently strike at sea and ground targets by guided and unguided bombs and missiles. It will fight various sea targets, including big-displacement warships.

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