Model of UAV “Thunder” and its weapons on “Army-2020”. Photo “Kronstadt”
The Kronshtadt company continues the development of the promising unmanned aerial complex “Grom” and a number of related projects. Recently, new messages appeared in the domestic press about the capabilities of the complex. A heavy drone of a new type will be able to perform reconnaissance and strike missions, as well as control the work of other UAVs.
New messages about the capabilities and potential of the “Thunder” complex and related developments have been disclosed by the TASS agency over the past few days. Information was obtained from both unnamed industry sources and representatives of the developer company.
On March 11, it was reported that the heavy drone “Thunder” will be able to control the operation of middle-class vehicles and coordinate their actions. Under the leadership of such a UAV, the “Molniya” -type vehicles that are currently being developed will operate. One “Thunder” will be able to interact with 10 “Lightning” operating in the “swarm” mode. At the same time, “Thunder” will not be able to carry the entire set of “Lightning” – they will have to be launched from another aircraft.
Assembling “Thunder” on the eve of the exhibition. Photo “Kronstadt”
Earlier in the official reports mentioned the ability of “Thunder” to carry guided weapons “air-to-surface” of various types. In particular, some weapons are being developed specifically for the new UAV. On March 13, TASS announces the planned inclusion of the Kh-38 guided missile in the Grom’s ammunition load. Such a product can be equipped with warheads of different types and has a flight range of up to 70 km. It should be recalled that such a rocket has already been demonstrated together with a promising UAV.
As reported on March 15, the representative of “Kronstadt” confirmed the possibility of controlling the swarm of “Lightning”. In addition, new details are provided. Medium UAVs will be used in reconnaissance and strike versions. At the same time, it is proposed to make reconnaissance drones returnable, and the shock drones will actually become loitering ammunition.
Also, a representative of the development organization indicated that the Molniya UAVs are being optimized to work as part of a swarm. The devices will have to conduct a constant exchange of data, which will ensure the transfer of information about the task being performed, the distribution and redistribution of roles, etc. Due to the use of artificial intelligence, medium-sized drones will be able to work without constant communication with the “Thunder”.
Ammunition close-up. Photo “Kronstadt”
“Thunder and lightning”
The existence of the Thunder project was first announced last year as part of the Army-2020 forum. In addition, a full-size model of this product was shown at the exhibition site for the first time. Compatible aircraft weapons were demonstrated together with him. The premiere show was accompanied by the disclosure of some information about the main features of the project and the capabilities of a promising UAV.
The first reports about the UAV “Lightning” (according to the latest data, the name “Piranha” was previously used) appeared at the end of February, when the leadership of the Ministry of Defense visited a pilot production facility of the “Kronstadt” company to check. A prototype or prototype of such a drone got into the frame and naturally attracted attention. In addition, some technical and operational details have become known. Now the amount of data available has increased significantly.
The development of “Thunder” is directly related to the observed development of air defense systems. Aerial reconnaissance and strikes against ground targets are becoming more and more difficult and dangerous. In this regard, the first strikes against enemy targets and the destruction of key air defense targets should be carried out by unmanned systems, incl. in the mode of interaction with manned aircraft.
Model “Lightning” and the leadership of the military department. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Reportedly, the Ministry of Defense agrees with this concept and believes that the troops need modern unmanned systems of the type being developed by the “Thunder”. Such equipment will have to be used together with modern and promising aircraft, such as the Su-35S or Su-57, to expand the combat capabilities of front-line aviation.
In addition to the “Thunder”, a lighter UAV “Lightning” is being created, suitable for conducting reconnaissance and striking in the “kamikaze” mode. Thus, a heavy, unobtrusive UAV will replace manned aircraft over the battlefield, and it will be assisted by smaller vehicles operating according to the “swarm” method. This is a fundamentally new concept for our videoconferencing, but even at a theoretical level, it promises serious advantages.
In the presented form, “Thunder” is an aircraft-based UAV with characteristic contours for stealth, trapezoidal wing, V-shaped tail and upper air intake. The takeoff weight of such a device can reach 7 tons, of which up to 2 tons will be used for combat load. It is reported that the “Thunder” has two external suspension nodes and two points in the internal cargo compartment.
General view of “Lightning”. Frame from the reportage of the “First Channel”
The combat load of such a drone can include guided missiles and bombs of various types with a single ammunition mass of up to 500 kg. At “Army-2020”, together with “Thunder”, they showed the KAB-250LG-E and KAB-500S-E bombs, as well as the Kh-58MLE and Product 85 missiles. Perhaps, in the future, the range of used ammunition will be expanded with a corresponding increase in combat qualities.
The Molniya product is a compact UAV in the cruise missile form factor. The wingspan is only 1.2 m, the take-off weight is limited to tens of kilograms. The payload is 5-7 kg. “Lightning” will be able to carry reconnaissance equipment, probably optical or radio engineering. An impact modification is also provided – a loitering ammunition with a warhead.
Earlier it was reported that “Lightning” will be able to form a “swarm” and act together. Now it is reported about the possibility of using such a group together with the UAV “Thunder”. In this case, the launch of the “swarm” can be carried out by another carrier aircraft. It is argued that the “Lightning” will receive artificial intelligence, which will make them a more effective reconnaissance and strike tool.
Completion of development, testing and implementation of new UAVs will take some time and require a lot of effort. However, the result of these processes will be the acquisition of fundamentally new opportunities. The Aerospace Forces will be able to form combined reconnaissance and strike groupings of front-line aviation, including manned aircraft and UAVs of various types. Probably, it will be possible to enter into them not only devices from the Kronstadt company, but also other equipment.
Product from a different angle. Frame from the reportage of the “First Channel”
Working in such a group, the Su-35S or Su-57 aircraft will retain all its capabilities to search for and defeat air or ground targets. At the same time, there will be no need to enter the enemy’s air defense engagement zone – UAVs can operate there. Subtle heavy “Thunders”, independently or under the control of an aircraft, will have to break through air defense and hit key targets without exposing the pilots to risks. The presence of medium-sized drones for group use will significantly expand all the basic capabilities of the group.
The composition of such a group can be selected in accordance with the assigned tasks. In addition, it lends itself to scaling without serious difficulties with a corresponding increase in combat qualities. Thus, each fighter can control several Thunder UAVs, which, in turn, are capable of controlling a dozen of Lightning. The full composition of such a group may not always be required, but such opportunities should not be abandoned.
The news of recent months directly indicates that thanks to the Kronstadt company and other organizations, a new era begins in the history of domestic unmanned aircraft. Unmanned systems of a heavy class with striking capabilities are being created and successfully brought to operation in the troops. In addition, fundamentally new solutions and concepts are being worked out.
Apparently, promising reconnaissance and strike UAVs, suitable for use with manned aircraft and as part of autonomous groups, will reach the series and enter service with the Aerospace Forces. The question of the duration and cost of their development remains open, but they do not question the fundamental possibility of creating new technology.