Russia is in the process of converting the fifth-generation Su-57 combat aircraft as a Mothership for small unmanned aerial vehicles, which the fighter will carry on its internal and external sling. As per Russian media, the development of onboard equipment and software has already begun. The ground based system for testing the concept is being created.
Quoting a source from the aviation industry, news agency RIA Novosti writes “one Su-57 fighter will be able to carry more than a dozen reconnaissance and strike drones, as well as electronic warfare in the inner fuselage compartment.The devices within the framework of the concept of group use will interact via secure communication channels both with the onboard complex of the carrier aircraft and among themselves.”
The source gave a scenario as an example. As per the source,”the fifth generation fighter will drop a group of drones before entering the zone of operation of an enemy air defense system. Drones will interfere with the system’s radars, overload its information channels as decoys, and (Kamikaze style) directly attack the anti-aircraft system as a high-precision aircraft weapon.”
The source did not specify the drone systems to be used, but it is already reported that the Russians are creating swam drone called Molniya (lightning). The Kronstadt Group’s drone specifications match with the description of the news agency source. As per the source, the basis of the system will be small unmanned aerial vehicles made in the form factor of a cruise missile. The UAV has a length of 1.5 meters and a wing span of up to 1.2 meters. The UAV is capable of a speed of of 600 – 700 kilometers per hour. It will be capable of carrying a warhead or payload of about 5-7 kilograms. As per the Russian news sources, the stealth coated drone can fly up to 200 kms and can be guided by laser, radar, GLONASS or Optronics. The Su-57 can accommodate about 8 of these drones in the internal bay.
These drones can be used by the Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B UCAV which under development along with Grom, Altius-U, Kronstadt Sirius and Kronstadt Orion drones. UCAV Grom would be capable of controlling a swarm of ten Molniya UAVs and would also be able to carry Kh-38 air-to-surface missile in its own strike configuration. As per Kronshtadt, the Grom drone has four hard-points: two under the wing panels and two inside the fuselage. It has an impressive take-off weight of 7 tonnes, which enables it to carry a payload of 1.3 tonnes to a range of 800 km. The Grom will also be able to employ a wide range of weapons like item 85 smart air bomb, KAB-250 and KAB-500 guided air bombs.