Russia Is Developing a New Long-Range Supersonic Strike Aircraft. No Pilot Needed.

    Dave Majumdar


    It is not clear how the Russians intend to control the new UCAV inside heavily defended airspace—especially where there is a lot of enemy jamming or cyber activity.

    Russia is developing a new long-range unmanned supersonic strike aircraft that would be capable of hitting both mobile and stationary targets. Unlike comparable Western developments that rely on stealth, the Russians are—at least for this particular project—planning on using a combination of low altitude and supersonic speeds to defeat enemy air defenses.

    “The new UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] will be able to perform automatic low-altitude flight at supersonic speeds and hit both stationary and mobile targets at a considerable distance from the takeoff site,” reads a Russian language report from state-owned RIA Novosti, which cites Alexander Nemov, deputy head of research for the Central Research Institute of the Air Force.

    Low-level penetration is a tried and true method of penetrating enemy air defenses without incurring the added cost of stealth.

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    “This is supposed to be a low-flying supersonic craft—it is notoriously difficult to shoot down a projectile flying at low altitudes and at high speeds,” Sam Bendett, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses, told The National Interest. “So this UCAV is aiming to penetrate anti-aircraft defenses and to generally punch through existing radar and missile coverage.”

    However, while this particular Russian aircraft is being designed to be stealthy, Moscow is not abandoning low observable technology.

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