The project of the unmanned complex of group use “Lightning”

The leadership of the military department gets acquainted with the new UAV. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

The domestic defense industry is developing new concepts and solutions in the field of unmanned aircraft. Recently it became known that the Kronstadt company, which has already created several unmanned systems, is working on the so-called project. complex of group use. The draft design “Lightning” proposes the use of a “swarm” of several UAVs to support the manned aircraft.

According to sources …

On February 26, a delegation from the Ministry of Defense visited the production site of the Kronstadt company in Moscow. The management of the department was shown production facilities and serial products under construction, as well as a number of new developments. In particular, an unknown aircraft-type drone was shown for the first time and a new code – “Lightning” – was sounded.

On March 1, RIA Novosti published an interesting message about the further development of unmanned technologies. With reference to an unnamed source in the defense industry, it is argued that Kronstadt is developing an unmanned complex with the possibility of group use and interaction with manned aircraft.

The project called “Lightning” is an initiative development of the “Kronstadt” company. A draft version of the project has been prepared, and development work will begin in the near future. Within the framework of the draft design, approximate tactical and technical characteristics have been determined, which, however, can be changed and adjusted during the development work. The complex is offered for solving a wide range of tasks related to the use of weapons or electronic equipment.

On the official resources of “Kronstadt” there is no information about the “Lightning” project yet. RIA Novosti was also unable to receive comments about this development. Probably, such a project – if it exists – has not yet reached the stages at which it can be presented to the public.

Unknown layout

It is assumed that the new unknown model, shown to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, is directly related to the “Lightning” project and shows the current views on the design of such a UAV. This is confirmed by the fact that the appearance of the product as a whole coincides with the characteristics and features disclosed by the source in the industry.

However, it could not have been the Molniya or even the UAV. In the report of Channel One, one can notice that the guidance system is mentioned on the information stand next to the model – and such a component is typical for cruise missiles, not for drones.

One way or another, the presented layout looks like a cruise missile, and its appearance speaks of the use of stealth technologies. The aircraft is built according to a normal scheme, it has a wing that can be folded in flight and a V-shaped tail. The fuselage received a curved top surface and an almost flat bottom. The design of the bow indicates the use of a radio-transparent fairing. An air intake recessed into the fuselage is provided in the central part of the product. The nozzle is flat with a V-shaped cut.

Close-up layout. Nearby is a stand with interesting information. Frame from the reportage of the “First Channel”

A promising UAV should receive advanced electronic means capable of providing autonomous or remotely controlled flight, interaction with other equipment and the fulfillment of the assigned task. At the same time, the list of on-board devices and their capabilities have not yet been specified.

According to the source of RIA Novosti, the length of the Molniya vehicle will reach 1.5 m, and the wingspan will be 1.2 m. The weight of the product has not been disclosed, but the payload is indicated at the level of 5-7 kg. UAVs of this appearance can be transported by different carrier aircraft. In particular, it will be able to fit into the internal compartments of the Su-57 fighter.

According to the same source, the Molniya’s turbojet propulsion system will provide a flight at a speed of 700-800 km / h. The flight range is hundreds of kilometers. The start will be carried out from the carrier. Landing method unknown.

Group application

The Molniya project proposes to transport light drones on carrier aircraft of various types. A wide range of vehicles is considered in this capacity – from promising Su-57 fighters to converted military transport aircraft. It is also possible to use light UAVs together with the heavy S-70 “Okhotnik”. Obviously, different carriers will carry a different number of light drones, and this will affect the organization of combat work.

New drones are being developed for swarm use. Several vehicles must fly and perform the task together – independently or in interaction with a manned aircraft. Such functions are the main goal of the project, towards which all efforts will be directed.

The swarm concept provides for a constant exchange of data between individual UAVs and the control aircraft. This allows you to solve any assigned tasks and respond flexibly to various factors. In the event of a change in the situation or the loss of a drone, tasks can be redistributed between active vehicles, incl. in automatic mode and without operator participation.

It is assumed that the unmanned “swarm” of the “Lightning” complex will be able to conduct reconnaissance, electronic warfare, etc. The possibility of solving combat missions is also being considered – for this, drones will be able to carry out target designation or act as loitering ammunition. The small payload, most likely, will prevent them from becoming weapons carriers.

Promising direction

Group use of UAVs and manned aircraft has obvious advantages and allows you to flexibly solve a wide range of tasks. As a result, projects of this kind are being worked out in a number of countries, and some of them have already been brought to flight tests of one kind or another. At the same time, such complexes have not yet been accepted for service.

View from a different angle, you can consider the design of the tail. Frame from the reportage of the “First Channel”

As follows from the latest news, in our country, work has also begun on an unmanned aerial complex for group use, intended for use in the troops. The draft design of the Molniya complex is already ready, and now its creators will have to carry out a full-fledged design.

It is not known how long the ROC stage will last, when the experienced Molniya UAVs will take to the air and how soon the group flights will begin. At the same time, there are reasons for both positive and negative forecasts. It should be noted that the Russian industry in general and the Kronstadt group in particular has solid experience in the creation of drones. It will contribute to the fastest solution of a number of engineering problems, which will have a positive effect on the overall timing of work on the “Lightning”.

However, it must be remembered that in a group application system, the leading role is given not to components and assemblies, but to special software. It must ensure high autonomy of the UAV and its ability to interact with other combat units. As practice shows, creating software with all the necessary functions is a very difficult task and requires a lot of effort.

Given the complexity of such a project, it can be assumed that the development and testing of a combat-ready unmanned complex will take several years. The adoption of the “Lightning” in service should be expected in the middle of the decade. It will take several more years to build and supply the troops with a sufficient amount of equipment. Thus, in the second half of the twenties, a full-fledged combat-ready grouping of Su-57 aircraft and the Hunter and Molniya drones with the widest capabilities may appear as part of the Russian Aerospace Forces.

It is obvious that the Molniya project and other hypothetical developments of this class are of great interest to the armed forces. Accordingly, the order for the development and start of the design of such a complex is now exclusively a matter of time. According to the latest news, development work will begin shortly and such estimates look realistic.

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