For ease of understanding, let's say that this is our first heavy attack drone with a global (up to 10,000 kilometers) range. "Altius" is significantly superior in most of the most important parameters to its predecessors - UAVs "Forpost" and "Orion", and most importantly, it has a satellite communications system, which allows it to be controlled far beyond the reach of military communications.
This news did not become a sensation: specialists had known about "Altius" for a long time, and information about him appeared in the media on a regular basis. Its appearance was expected, but nevertheless, a number of serious problems with its development made one doubt the ultimate success of the project. Suffice it to say that the first demonstration of this drone model took place back in 2013. And in 2018 there was information about the closure of the project. A little earlier, on April 22, 2018, Alexander Gomzin, general director of the OKB im. Simonov, who led the development of "Altius" (at that time the project was called "Altair"). Moreover, he was arrested for allegedly stealing nine hundred million rubles allocated just for the development of this drone.
A little later, however, it became clear that the "graceful" maneuver with the arrest was just a prelude to the transfer of the project to the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA), which, by a strange coincidence, belonged to a person close to the leadership of one of the ministries close to the military theme , but this, as they say, is a completely different story. But she also makes us understand that the history of "Altius" is very thorny, its path to mass production was very difficult, and today, when we learned about the upcoming start of mass production and deliveries to the troops, you can actually breathe a sigh of relief.
The development of this UAV began back in 2011. And at first it seemed that everything would be simple. Russian designers then actively used imported components in their developments, and usually the development of a drone at that time looked like this: we design a glider, install imported engines on it, subcontractors make the necessary equipment from imported components for our needs, and in the end we simply install it on the UAV available samples of weapons, suitable for weight and size parameters. Altair was no exception - they planned to supply it with German RED A03 / V12 engines. Considering that at that time in Russia piston aircraft engines of this class were not produced at all, the decision can be called forced and even justified.
But then 2014 broke out and the ensuing forced "Import substitution". The likelihood that Germany will continue to supply engines for combat drones to the Russian Federation tended to zero. An attempt was even made to localize the production of the power plant in Russia, but the real solution was the one developed at the Design Bureau. Klimov's VK-800V engine, originally intended for light helicopters. It turned out that its parameters are perfect for a heavy drone, and after some refinement, the Klimov brainchild was installed on the Altius.
If we dwell in more detail on the technical characteristics of the new UAV, we get the following:
cruising speed - 200-250 km / h;
flight range - 10,000 kilometers;
flight duration - 48 hours;
practical ceiling - 12,000 meters;
takeoff weight - 5,000 kilograms;
payload - 1000 kilograms.
In terms of its performance characteristics, the vehicle turned out to be something in between its two American competitors - the global reconnaissance aircraft RQ-4 "GlobalHawk" and the MQ-9 "Reaper" strike drone. True, it is inferior to the first in a number of important parameters, including flight speed and altitude, but this is due to our lag in the field of aircraft engine development and, unfortunately, has not yet been treated. As for the "Reaper", it is a much more specialized machine, sharpened for striking ground targets. It was the MQ-9 "Reaper" that fired the missiles that killed the Iranian general Qasem Suleimani, although besides that it is well-known - this drone is actively used by the Americans to hunt terrorists in all parts of the world, and often it also goes to civilians, which the operators mistakenly mistaken for militants.
Composite materials are widely used in the design of the drone - only the nacelles and the engines themselves are metal there. Due to this, according to expert estimates, the vehicle is less detectable by radars: the effective scattering area of the Altius is about a quarter lower than that of the Reaper. Of course, in this case we are not talking about a "stealth drone", but even a small gain in stealth can be called a pleasant bonus.
Another important feature is that the electronic "brains" of the Russian UAV have artificial intelligence, which allows it to fly independently for a significant part of the time. This greatly reduces the burden on the operator, in particular, "Altius" can be operated by just one operator, while the MQ-9 "Reaper" is under the constant supervision of at least two. The level of "intelligence" of the new drone is such that it could independently make decisions about the attack on certain objects. True, he is not allowed to do this for an understandable reason - the risk of error in this case is still too great.
According to available information, at least 18 such complexes should be received by the troops by 2022. Each of them includes 2 drones, a ground control station, a signal reception and transmission station and a ground control station for takeoff and landing in automatic mode. In the future, we can expect the delivery of up to 50 complexes, which should fully meet the requirements of the army and allow the use of heavy reconnaissance and strike drones in several (if necessary) local conflicts at once.
A careful analysis of the novelty shows that it is, first of all, a reconnaissance vehicle. Its main purpose is long-term control of the territory in conflict zones and in threatened directions to increase the situational awareness of army units. The strike weapons of the complex can be called auxiliary - sometimes there is an urgent need to destroy the detected target "here and now", and it is for such cases that the weapons on board will come in handy. Its exact list is not yet known, but we dare to assume that here we will follow the path of the Americans, who most often use anti-tank missiles for their operations. Most likely, and "Altius" in most cases will manage with a pair of aircraft anti-tank missiles: this is quite enough to hit a suspicious vehicle, firing point, air defense calculation or to attack a group of militants moving secretly under the cover of vegetation.
At the same time, one should be very careful about the suggestions that have appeared that the Altius is supposedly designed to work in conjunction with the Su-57 fighter and the Okhotnik strike drone. No, as a source of intelligence information, he is perfect. And the ability to directly receive up-to-date information will be very useful to the pilot of any combat aircraft, including the Su-57. But on this, perhaps, we will limit the flight of our imagination - the difference in speed, in principle, does not allow such different aircraft to fly in tandem and carry out joint missions for a long time.
It is also probably worth remembering that machines of this type are not very suitable for high-intensity conflicts with an approximately equal enemy. That is, the "Altius" is unlikely to ever make combat missions to the territory controlled by the NATO bloc or China - for enemy fighters this is an easy target, and there will be no practical benefit from the massive use of such UAVs in this case.
Nevertheless, our army can be congratulated on the arrival of a new drone. For solving a whole range of tasks, this is a very good tool - inexpensive, effective, allowing less risk and better, at the same time, performing intelligence functions. If you try to give a short answer, why the Altius UAVs can be useful to us, you get the following: with their help Russia will feel much better in local conflicts, and Russian guys will more often return from the combat zone safe and sound.