Russia Unveils New Missile-armed UCAVs

 - May 14, 2018, 6:44 AM
The Corsair has been flying since 2015 and is now entering production.

The Russian defense ministry unveiled two UCAVs during the May 9 military parade in Moscow to mark the 73rd anniversary of the victory over fascist Germany. A couple of each type were shown on their truck-transporters. The same trucks also carried transport-and-launch canisters for Ataka anti-tank missiles, signifying that they can be carried by the two UCAVs. “All weapon systems demonstrated are in service with the Russian armed forces or undergoing operational trials. Most have passed combat trials in Syria,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

The Korsar (Corsair) is developed by OKB Luch, a member of the Roselectronika group, which reports to the Rostec state corporation. According to deputy minister Gen. Yuri Borisov, responsible for weapons procurement, “We will be procuring it in quantities.”

The Corsair features a twin-boom design with V-tail empennage and a single 50- to 70-hp piston engine driving a twin-blade pushing propeller. In a short video released by the MoD, the air vehicle retracts its tricycle landing gear. The airframe has a length of 4.2 meters (13.8 feet) and a wingspan of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet). With a gross weight of 200 kg (441 pounds), the UCAV can accelerate to 120-150 km/h (65 - 81 knots) and attain an altitude of 5-6 km (16,000 to 20,000 feet), and loiter there for 10 hours.

The Corsair is intended for round-the-clock air reconnaissance in search of land and sea targets, delivering kinetic strikes and carrying payloads to assigned destinations. It can relay real-time relay targeting information for precision strikes. Mission equipment sets codenamed “Eye in the Sky“ and “Combat Expanse” allow for data exchange between air drones in a group.

Reportedly, OKB Luch began working on the project in 2009 and commenced flight testing in 2015. At that time, however, this rather conventional design did not attract much interest, as the Corsair was one of the numerous other projects being developed as an industry initiative.

At first, the Corsair was considered to be a medium-weight UAV for tactical applications with no mention of its ability to perform kinetic strikes. According to Rostec, Corsair serial production is being set up. In the future, this system may come with improved air vehicles whose operational range would be increased from 120 to 160 km (65 to 86 nautical miles) currently to 250 km (135 nm). They will carry mission equipment with enhanced functionality in air reconnaissance and electronic warfare and reconnaissance.

The other UCAV unveiled during the parade was the Katran unmanned helicopter intended for the support of special forces, as well as reconnaissance and battlefield surveillance using TV cameras and thermal imagers. Its fuselage is 6 meters (approximately 20 feet) long and one meter (3.3 feet) wide. The UCAV has a gross weight of 490 kg (992 pounds); lifts a 120-kg (265-pound) payload; gains top speed of 130 km/h (70 kt); and an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft).

The Russian MoD commented,“Apart from the ability to carry out reconnaissance and EW missions, the Katran can also make kinetic strikes using unguided and guided munitions. The air vehicle surpasses foreign analogs in thrust-to-weight ratio, flight duration and payload capability. It features a coaxial rotor layout, which provides for high maneuverability, and it can operate from unprepared sites of small sizes in any weather.” Officials added that the Katran UCAV is primarily intended for naval applications.

In addition to a pair of Katrans demonstrated during the V-Day parade, there was also a third example, with a different fuselage, used during rehearsals. All are believed to be experimental prototypes. First flight occurred in January 2018 at Russian Helicopter’s KUMAPE factory in Kumertau, which leads the project. The Katran bears some resemblance to the Kamov Ka-37 developed with financial support from RoK’s DHI and first flown in 1993. Three years later, Kamov flew the Ka-137 radar surveillance drone with a globe-shaped fuselage and the diameter of coaxial rotors increased from 4.8 to 5.3 meters (15.7 to 17.4 ft).

The Katran is twice as big as the Ka-37, using the more powerful Rotax 912 in place of older piston engines to boost performance. In service, the new type would supplement the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 which has been license-built in Russia as the Horizon G-Air S-100.