Kronshtadt, the company responsible for manufacturing Russia’s first combat drones, has been commissioned to produce an unmanned technology demonstrator for the country’s supersonic business jet.
The deal was revealed by Nikolai Dolzhenkov, Kronshtadt’s chief designer, in an interview with Russian state news agency TASS.
Dolzhenkov said: “We were approached by [the] Zhukovsky Institute in regards to the work on a prototype-demonstrator of an unmanned variant of supersonic business jet. We considered the possibility and concluded that, given appropriate funding, it is possible.”
According to Dolzhenkov, the demonstrator will help to answer questions about the use of supersonic commercial aircraft above populated areas. With the insight gathered, a manned prototype can then be produced.
“The demonstrator has to be close to the real thing in its proportions and size, for example 1:3 scale, and not 1:40, because many negative physical properties are not scalable,” Dolzhenkov explained.
According to Dolzhenkov, “a number” of other companies will be involved in the aircraft’s development.
From his interview, it can also be inferred that work on the demonstrator has not yet begun, as neither the proportions of the aircraft, nor the other parties involved in its manufacturing have been agreed.
Russia has considered developing its own supersonic bizjet since 2018, with the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) stating that it has already created a design proposal. In 2019, a scale model was demonstrated at the Moscow airshow, and the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) was given the task of building a technology demonstrator by 2022.
In early 2021, it was announced that the jet will be a joint venture between Russia and the United Arab Emirates. A few months later, the project appeared to have stalled as Sergei Chemezov, the head of state conglomerate Rostec, which owns UAC and most of the country’s aerospace manufacturers, called the project “unprofitable”.
Kronshtadt is one of the few Russian aircraft manufacturers that does not belong to Rostec and UAC, although it has collaborated with both on numerous projects in the past.
Kronshtadt’s previous projects include Orion, the first medium-altitude long-endurance combat drone to enter into service with the Russian Air Force. The company also works on Grom, Russia’s loyal wingman project to rival Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie and Boeing ATS.