Russian drone allegedly spotted on Google Earth… so what is being developed for air and sea?


Allegedly Russian drone on Google Earth (via Yury Barmin)

Drones in the air

Yury Barmin, (Analyst on Russia, Russia’s strategy in the Middle East) tweeted the following information which will ignite the interest of all who follow news of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development.

“Russia’s 1st drone capable of conducting attack missions, Altius M, was accidentally spotted in a satellite image”

It is not clear whether this is the first however Barmin posted two images, the first of a Google Earth image appearing to show the drone on an airfield and the second of a group of men with a scale model of a drone. Drones are used for surveillance and to target “alleged insurgents.” Earlier attempts to keep the project secret were thwarted when photos of the Altius UAV appeared on a website on 5th February 2013 following a visit to Tatarstan by Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Although the photos were taken down they later appeared in Vedomosti see following Flight Global link,

Here are a few of the responses to the news of the Russian drone Google Earth photo on Twitter:-

Emmanuel Maged … “good job for the Russian MIC, they needed that capability long time ago, its about time”

Jussi Kytossaho… “Man, they’ve been behind the US war machine. Let’s see if RUS ever catch up the number of civilians killed by drones”

STRATMIL…”Tsetshnya, Mariupol… UAV/UCAV is better than carpet bombing”

LIOC… “first drone? Doubt it’s their first”

sSUAS NEWS…. “Is it a game changer? Soon as it is operational I believe we will see international rules”

BUDAtheLASTa …  “I think, ‘object’ is left to be spotted deliberately”

The Russian drone industry is clearly hotting up as yesterday Space Daily announced that, “the Russian United Instrument Corporation (UIC) has constructed two prototype versions of reconnaissance and strike drones, code-named “Chirok,” and is currently preparing them for tests”

More information here,


Scale model of one of Russia’s new drones (via Yury Barmin)

Back in June 2014, Russia Beyond The Headlines stated the following regarding Russia’s drone industry in this article from Dimitry Litovkin;

“the Russian Air Force is to receive its first unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) into service by 2020. It is expected that state trials or field tests of the new UCAVs may start in 2017. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov, research and development work for this project is now nearly complete.

Drone fighters are able to tackle strategic tasks because they are difficult to detect and have better combat sustainability than manned aircraft.

There are over 600 types of unmanned aerial vehicles produced in the world today, including 25 in Russia. A mere 20 years ago, Moscow was an undisputed leader in this field: In the 1980s, it manufactured 950 Tu-143 reconnaissance UAVs alone.

However, the Defense Ministry then wound up drone production, since it no longer had either the money or ideological reasons to commission this type of aircraft.

It was the Americans who prompted the Russian military to revive the program. Successful U.S. operations with the use of UAVs in Afghanistan and Pakistan have shown that no war of the future can be conducted without drones.” 

Complete article can be read on following link,

I posed the question, “who will Russia’s first armed drone be aimed against!? Global Bearings tweeted back ” Dagestanis”? Only time will tell who will be the targets. Russia has for some time been dealing with insurgency in the North Caucasus. Readers may remember the Moscow Theatre Hostage Seige, the attack on a school at Beslan and bombings on the Moscow metro. Back in Dec 4th 2014, there was an attack on the city of Grozny which Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov suggested was the work of Akhmad Umarov, brother of the late Doku Umarov, Emir and founder of the Caucasus Emirate. This militant jihadist organization was set up with a goal to expel Russians from the North Caucasus and establish an independent Islamic Emirate in the region.

With regard to drone development it is likely Russia was inspired by the need to keep up with the Americans who have a well established programme familiar to the families of many innocent civilians on the receiving end in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Will Russia also have the Ukraine in mind? Conflict arose when the Ukrainian government took a decision not to sign the agreement with the European Union in 2013 and pro-democracy protesters took to the streets. Russia moved to once again assert authority in this strategic region and fighting has continued to the present day. The BBC reported that pro-Russian rebels attacked the port of Mariupol at the weekend and NATO informed that hundreds of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles are in east Ukraine. Ukrainians may see Russia’s looming drones as another threat to their existence.


Anti-drone protest in US (Digital Journal)

Use of armed drones is a controversial issue as there is opposition to the targeting of alleged suspects that have often never been tried or convicted in a court of law. Drones have been used to take out members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and more recently members of the Islamic State. However there are questions over accuracy as many children have been killed in US drone strikes and also by Israel’s drone attacks on the Gaza Strip. Drone activists argue that strikes only radicalize more young people and then there is “blowback” as drone strikes are usually followed by retaliation bombings. Recently the testimonies of several former drone operators have added to the controversy as they have spoken out against governments and apologized for their actions. Drone technology has overtaken development of laws guiding their use which are still sadly inadequate and a cause for concern in terms of ethics and safety.

According to the Diplomat, Russia is developing both the Skad combat UAV and the X-40 and is predicted to spend upwards of $9.2 billion on UAVs through 2020. Diplomat stated,

“Russia has compared the Skad combat UAV it is developing to the American-made Х-47. The Skad is reportedly 10 tons with a 4,000 km range and a speed of at least 800 km per hour. According to Russia and India Report, the Skad combat UAV will be capable of “carrying two air-to-surface/anti-radiation missiles or two smart bombs with a total weight of no more than one ton.” The same article noted that Russia has given a contract tender to the Sukhoi design bureau for a combat UAV that is being called X-40, however, little is known about the characteristics of that particular drone.”

Drones at sea


Russian 5th generation nuclear submarines will also have underwater drones

Not to be left out, the Russian navy is also expanding in the area of drones. RT reported that, “Russia’s fifth generation nuclear submarines will be armed with robots and underwater drones in addition to conventional weaponry.” Nikolay Novoselov, deputy CEO of the Malakhit design engineering bureau was quoted as stating, “they’ll be released by the submarine and stay offline before being remotely activated on command. It will give the submarine time to leave the area, with the drone staying in place to maintain a semblance that the submarine is still there.”

According to Newsweek, Russia has also developed and is about to test the Chirok (duckling) which is a military hovercraft drone capable of landing on water. In addition an Arctic drone base is under construction around 400 miles off the Alaskan coast, there are to be 13 airdromes and 10 radars in the region. International Business Times reported that,

“Orlan-10 drones will be used for surveillance and conducting inspection over Russia’s territorial waters. They will also be used in combat training tasks near the maritime zone along the shore of the Arctic Ocean.”

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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