Russian loyal wingman drone Grom will be armed with a swarm of smaller Molniya drones, Kronshtadt announced.

The idea was revealed to a state news agency TASS by an unnamed representative of Kronshtadt, a Russian defense equipment manufacturer.

According to the representative, two variants of the Molniya drone are in the works: a disposable attack variant and a reusable reconnaissance variant. 

Grom heavy attack drone, advertised as a Russian response to Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie, will be able to command a swarm of 10 Molniyas. Russian media also reported that the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet will be able to carry up to 8 Molniya drones in its internal cargo bays. 

Reportedly, the Molniya drone is going to have a length of 1.5 meters (approx. 5 ft.) and a wingspan of 1.2 meters (approx. 4 ft.). It is going to be powered by a turbofan engine and have a speed of up to 700 km/h (435 mph). 

There was no information on whether Molniya drones are going to feature a form of artificial intelligence (AI) or be remotely controlled. 

According to Kronshtadt, the Grom drone is intended to support Russian fighter jets in ground attack operations – a type popularly known as “loyal wingmen”. Currently under development in many countries, such drones are typically intended to be semi-autonomous, with an ability to execute complex commands given by an operator. 

“Loyal wingman” is a trending buzzword in the world of military aviation. But what exactly is it?

Grom, on the other hand, is intended to be fully controlled by a ground operator, as the material presented at Army 2020 expo reveals.

According to Russian media, Kronshtadt plans to start the development of Molniya “soon”. No information on the development cycle of its mothership, Grom, was revealed too. 

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become a prominent part of large military expos in recent years. Russian Army-2020, which took place at the end of August 2020, was not an exception. One of many mockups presented there was introduced as the “loyal wingman”: a development, closely resembling the latest projects by some American, European and Oceanian companies. Let’s take a closer look at it.