MOSCOW – Russia is developing a helicopter drone to aid anti-aircraft weapon systems in their mission against UAVs. The project, accelerated shortly after the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict began in mid-2020, will fill a gap in Russia’s military capabilities.
The new drone will “detect small and slow enemy drones at low and extremely low altitudes,” a military defense complex source told Russian news agency RIA Novosti this month.
The source said the helicopter drone had been in development since November, adding that research and development efforts were accelerated in response to the “increasing role of attack drones during recent local conflicts”.
He did not provide details, but during the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, various types of Turkish-made drones were used and helped the Azerbaijani armed forces break the defenses of Armenia.
According to the source, the new model will be developed using existing technology to expedite manufacturing. Senior military analyst Mikhail Khodaryonok, a former colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, is skeptical about the use of helicopter drones in the air defense mission.
“It has to carry a lot of equipment and it gets expensive. It’s better to use classic land-based radars which can be more accurate, ”he told Defense News.
Defense News reached out to the Russian government for more information, but did not receive any additional details.
This is not Russia’s only helicopter drone currently in development. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a government publication, reported that the country is also developing a new attack helicopter drone. The publication, citing a report from the research center of the Central Scientific Institute of the Russian Air Force, which is involved in the project, stated that the drone weighs 2.5-3 tons and has a range of 20-30 kilometers.
If one of the helicopter drones is used, it would be a first for the armed forces there. The country currently has a number of drones collecting information.
The Navy has long considered the idea of using helicopter drones. In 2012, the service wanted to test the Horizon Air S-100 drones, which were licensed by a local manufacturer via the Austrian company Schiebel. However, the project was reportedly never realized.
The medium-sized, long-life Orion drone, originally designed to collect information, was unveiled as a multipurpose aircraft during the assistance of the Army’s 2020 Defense Exhibition in Moscow in August. The first three Orion drones, designed by the St. Petersburg-based Kronstadt company, were ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry in August.
However, the biggest problem facing Russian drone development is the lack of a high quality, locally made motor. “We are very far behind other countries,” said Khodaryonok.