The Russian military is planning on getting into the drone game by developing its own 20-ton unmanned attack aircraft by 2018, according to defense industry sources last week.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported
that a prototype is being created by Sukhoi, based on the fifth-generation T-50 fighter, per United Aircraft Corp. president Mikhail Pogosyan.
Pogosyan said at August's MAKS 2013 airshow in Moscow that the drone was at a "preliminary research stage." RIA Novosti quoted an anonymous source about the development of another five-ton drone that is being developed by the Kazan-based company Sokol, which could be ready in 2015 or 2016.
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The Russian political newspaper Pravda, reported that the specific capabilities of the new aircraft is expected to be similar to American attack drones, according to LiveScience.com
. The website said the news is the strongest sign yet that the Russians have decided to build a strong drone program.
"From the point of view of theory, engineering and design ideas, we are not in the last place in the world," Vladimir Anokhin, vice president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Issues, told Pravda in a translated quote reported by LiveScience.com.
While Russian is dedicated to move forward with its drone projects, Anokhin told Pravda it still may take time to make them an active part of the Russian military.
"We have wonderful teams that have spent decades working on this," Anokhin told Pravda. "But we do not have enough hands. We do not have the industrial base, we do not have skilled workers who could produce a massive amount of those drones that we need so much now."
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles controlled by a person on the ground or autonomously via a computer program. The aircraft, which are meant to operate by stealth, are becoming increasingly popular because they can fly for long periods of time without putting pilots in harm's way, according to the website.
Drones are also becoming the aircraft of choice for other missions, from wildlife and atmospheric research to disaster relief, sports photography and surveying the ground for archaeological sites.
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The Washington Post reported
last week that the U.S. military will deploy long-range surveillance drones from Japan next year to spy on North Korea. ()
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