Russia is developing its first long-range drone aircraft capable of conducting ground attack missions, but lags behind other militaries in building unmanned aerial combat vehicles, according to U.S. officials.
The new drone is being developed in secret and was first revealed in online images earlier this year.
U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports said the drone is being called the Altius-M and work is being done at the Sokol Design Bureau in Tatarstan, a Russian republic.
Recent analysis of images of the propeller-driven aircraft indicates the drone will be a medium or high-altitude strike aircraft, based on its long wingspan and V-shaped tail, the officials said.
The aircraft appears similar to the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper missile-firing UAV.
The aircraft was disclosed in photographs during a February visit to Tatarstan by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu.
Photographs showed Shoygu standing next to a model of the new combat drone. The images later were removed from the Internet after publication, an indication the program remains one of Russia’s secret military programs.
The five-ton aircraft is scheduled for deployment by 2016 and the late development, compared to drone programs of other nations, highlights what U.S. officials see as a deficiency in Russian military efforts to develop both armed and reconnaissance drones.
Drone have emerged in recent years as a key element of what is known in U.S. defense parlance as the revolution in military affairs—using high-technology weapons and tactics for strategic advantage.
Full article: Russia to Deploy Long-Range Attack Drone by 2016 (Washington Free Beacon)