Is Russia working on an advanced military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of shooting down the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter? According to James Drew over at globalflight.com, the answer could be yes.
At this year’s MAKS airshow, which took place in August near Moscow, Drew talked to the first deputy chief executive officer of the electronic systems producer KRET, Vladimir Mikheev, about a drone model on display at the event. Mikheyev revealed that there was more to the miniature than would meet the eye.
Surprisingly, rather than just being a mere marketing tool to attract future customers, the displayed model is allegedly based on an actual prototype of a new combat drone equipped with deeply-integrated electronic warfare systems developed by the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), according to Mikheev.
Furthermore, Mikheev notes that his company, Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET) is a subcontractor for this project working on the drone’s communications systems, its radar, as well as its electronic warfare and self-protection systems, in addition to providing the UAVs ground control station. According to globalflight.com:
Mikheev says KRET is providing a deeply-integrated electronic warfare system that not only provides a protective electromagnetic sphere around the aircraft to counter air-to-air missiles, but also cloaks it from radars.
The unmanned aircraft closely resembles Northrop’s carrier-based X-47B demonstrator, but adds two lift fans on each wing and vertical stabilisers.
Mikheev says the UAV’s avionics, radar and electronic warfare systems are derived from those being produced for the Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter and the Kamov Ka-50 attack helicopter.
Mikheev also indicates that this new “F-35 killer” drone is similar to the People’s Liberation Army’s Project 973 or Shen Diao (“Divine Eagle”) prototype, one of the world’s largest twin fuselage UAVs.
As I reported before (See: “Meet the PLA’s Deadly New ‘Carrier Killer’ Drone”), the Divine Eagle UAV is purportedly influenced by the Russian Sukhoi S-62 twin-fuselage high-altitude, long-endurance drone with some media reports noting that China stole key design features from Russia – a narrative that Mikheev’s comments appear to support.
The Chinese Divine Eagle UAV is designed to carry multiple Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, of the AMTI, SAR and GMTI varieties as well as Airborne Moving Target Indicators (AMTI) that are used to rack fighter jets and cruise missiles.
Nevertheless, with regard to Russia’s alleged “F-35 killer” drone James Drew urges caution:
It remains to be seen whether this UAV project is just marketing or a mature development program with similar goals to China’s Divine Eagle UAV.
The United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are planning to acquire a total of 2,457 F-35 fighter jets with operation and maintenance costs estimated as high as $1,016 billion over the next four decades, according to the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense.