2021 will see the first long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying precision munitions delivered to the Russian Air Force, commander-in-chief lieutenant general Sergei Dronov confirmed.
The date and plans, first hinted at by the commander-in-chief of the Aerospace forces colonel general Sergei Surovkin back in May 2020, were laid out in Dronov’s interview to Krasnaya Zvezda, the newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defence.
“Currently, unmanned aerial vehicles of small and medium range are in service. Next year we will start receiving long range UAVs capable of undertaking not only aerial reconnaissance, but to use high-precision munitions to destroy targets deep in the enemy territory,” Dronov said.
Although the exact type of aircraft was not specified in the interview, most likely Dronov was referring to the “Altius”, which is also sometimes called “Altair”.
The development of the drone was started in 2011, and the first flight test was reported in late 2019. The project was reportedly cancelled in October 2018 due to problems with a contractor, but resumed several months later.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “Altius” weighs 6 tons and is capable of carrying 9-А-7759 “Grom” guided air-to-surface missiles. It is said to be the Russian answer to MQ-9 “Reaper”, used by various NATO forces since 2007.
According to Dronov, the experience received during special operations in Syria showed great potential of UAVs. Several drone types, including medium-range “Orion” (also capable of carrying air-to-surface munitions) were used in those operations.