Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Russia's Unmanned Aircraft Are Getting Lethal New Munitions
Russian engineers have designed munitions specifically for the nation’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fleets, according to RIA-Novosti news agency. The weapon’s combat weight is up to fifty kilograms (110lb). In effect, Russians have built precision-guided weapons for their UAVs. According to RIA, the developers are designating these weapons as “air-borne delivery vehicles.” This family of missiles is weighing fifteen, twenty-five, fifty and one hundred kilograms, and is intended for warhead delivery of up to fifty kilograms for a range of twelve to twenty kilometers (seven to thirteen miles) in the “glide mode,” and up to one hundred kilometers (sixty-two miles) when powered by the engine.
RIA states that the weapon is between one to two meters (3.3-6ft) in length, with a payload and warhead weight of seven, seventeen, twenty-five and fifty kilograms. All versions have a modular construction that allows operators to build either “glide” or engine-powered versions, depending on the mission, as well as change the payload and targeting modules. Radio-correction line can be used to change targeting in mid-flight, while navigation is carried out with both inertial system and satellite positioning systems. Target guidance is conducted via laser system, as well as a video control module.
Such a development is no small feat for the growing Russian UAV manufacturing and expertise industry. Unlike the United States, its Western allies, and nations like Israel, China and even Iran, Russian Federation lacks mid- to long-range UAVs with precision-strike capabilities. Russia’s current unmanned aerial vehicle fleet is almost exclusively tasked with ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) duties, and carries a light payload consisting of cameras and various sensors and transmitters. Up until recently, Russian forces had no way to deliver munitions payloads against adversaries via its UAVs, although recent promotional videos from test ranges and military exhibitions showed quadrocopters/multirotor models dropping small bombs on targets. Although Russian military may have used such simple payload delivery in combat zones like Syria, the recent RIA announcement about guided munitions will greatly extend Russia's reach in its military area of operations. However, there is a major caveat—such weapons must be carried on larger and heavier UAVs that Russia currently does not have in its arsenal.
There are significant signs that Russia intends to correct such deficiency. Recent unveiling of production-ready Orion-E long-range UAVs at MAKS-2017 air and space expo, as well as the existence of a small T-16 combat drone point to eventual acquisition of such vehicles by the Russian military, although probably not earlier than 2018–2019 time frame. Other UAV models with potential to carry various munitions are undergoing testing and evaluation by the state and military authorities, such as the recently-announced unmanned helicopter and tilt-rotor designs. American, Israeli and now Chinese combat drones all have the capacity to deliver payloads across various distances, making them a must-have for militaries engaged in modern conflict. Russia’s own guided weapons for the unmanned aerial vehicles strengthen the country’s emerging UAV capability, and may even win international orders should foreign customers seek out Moscow’s technologies for their own UAV fleets. As before, the success of such weapons will depend on the available military budget and proper coordination between Russian government and its military-industrial enterprises.
Samuel Bendett is a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a foreign affairs contributor to the RealClearWorld. Previously he worked at the National Defense University on emerging and disruptive technologies for government response in crisis situations. The views expressed here are his own.
More from The National Interest:
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.