By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
A recent report shows Russia’s Altair (Альтаир) drone undergoing tests with munitions mounted on the bird. This drone is one of several in Russia’s arsenal. Last year it received some coverage. What is known is that in 2012 after the Georgia war Russia wanted to increase its drone arm and licensed to develop a drone called Forpost based on the successful Israeli Searcher MK II from IAI.
Trials continued for this drone that weighs around 400kg. Later the Altair concept was developed. One site notes “The situation with Altair did not develop smoothly….The leadership of Tatarstan wanted the research and competences to remain in the republic. Negotiations between the involved parties resulted in a compromise. The new producer will implement the project in Tatarstan. UZGA created an affiliate in Kazan for that.” It ended up quite large at 7.5 tons and a 28.5 meter wing. It has two diesel engines.
Video of it was shared last year. Now social media has reported a new video of the UAV being tested.
The translated report says “the aforementioned drone was first provided with ammunition. Judging by the video, while these are training inert bombs. But their visual characteristics correspond to high-explosive FAB-250 high-explosive bombs weighing 250-268 kg (some users on the Web considered overall similarities with the heavier FAB-500). This proved that the drone, which was developed for the Russian Armed Forces since 2011, can perform not only reconnaissance, but also shock function.”
The commentator goes on to note “Russian military is looking forward to receiving this heavy drone. It has a takeoff weight of up to 5 tons. Its carrying capacity is about 1 ton. Flight duration up to 48 hours. Speed - 150-250 km / h. It can rise to a height of up to 12 thousand meters. Flight range – 10 thousand km.”
The video TV program report can be seen at this link. This appears to be a Vesti (Вести) report and its location is given as Kazan in Tatarstan. The report shows officials arriving and seeing the munitions and the drone and examining the command and control center. TThe date is June 19, 2020.
We know from TASS media about Moscow’s overall drone strategy. Russia has used drones in Ukraine and has pointed to drone threats as a reason for its own needs. For instance the Russian military claimed to have “detected over five thousand foreign reconnaissance drones approaching the Crimean coast in the past five years.” It wasn’t clear what five year period that was.
It also developed the Pantsir system to deal with drone threats. A 2018 TASS piece notes ” The Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy strike drone being developed by the Sukhoi Aircraft Company will make its debut flight in the spring of 2019, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko said in an interview with the Zvezda TV Channel on Wednesday…Russia is developing several types of attack drones. These are the strike version of the Forpost medium reconnaissance drone, the Orion medium-altitude long-endurance UAV, the Altair reconnaissance and strike drone with a weight of up to 5 tonnes, the sixth-generation Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy strike drone and the Karnivora small strike/interceptor drone.” Defense Minister Shoigu wanted more options by 2019. It isn’t clear if he got what he wanted.