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Combat unmanned aerial vehicles, which are also called simply drones, appeared much earlier than many imagine. The first military UAV was created back in 1935, although it served as a target during training.
Then the military quickly realized that the drone is an excellent reconnaissance tool. For a long time, they were used only for these purposes. However, with the development of technology, the capabilities of drones began to expand, they were equipped with aircraft missiles, aircraft bombs and other weapons.
As it turned out, they are an effective strike tool capable of hitting targets on land and at sea. Modern UAVs are also becoming more and more automated, some of them even capable of performing combat missions in a completely autonomous mode. Let’s take a look at this type of weapon in more detail.
Quadcopters are perhaps the most common type of UAV in the army, as they are the simplest and cheapest devices. In addition, they have a number of other advantages, such as high maneuverability, quick start-up, convenience and ease of operation.
The standard layout of a quadcopter involves four electric motors and four propellers, which they spin. Two screws turn clockwise and two more screws turn counterclockwise. Due to the rotation of the screws, lifting traction is provided.
In terms of aerodynamics, quadcopters themselves are completely unstable, since they do not have wings. Therefore, the computer is responsible for the stability of the flight, which stabilizes the position of the aircraft by changing the speed of the propellers.
Quadcopters can hover at one point, make a U-turn and perform other maneuvers. To move forward, the front motors reduce the frequency to make the aircraft bank, while the rear motors increase the frequency, thereby providing the necessary thrust.
I must say that in addition to quadrocopters, there are hexacopters that have six propellers and, accordingly, six electric motors. And the most complex models can have 8 screws.
The latter are characterized by a high carrying capacity, which allows them to be used for the delivery of goods. Currently, models are being developed that can even evacuate the wounded.
But most often copters are used as reconnaissance means. They can also be equipped with small arms or light grenade launchers to destroy enemy manpower and equipment. Some species can carry light bombs on board for precise strikes.
For example, the Dragon Fly kamikaze quadrocopter was developed in Poland. Sometimes the military uses even the most ordinary household copters and equips them with a mechanism for attacking the enemy with mines or grenades.
A serious problem faced by manufacturers of military copters is the creation of high-precision aiming systems, as well as optical systems. But the problem, for sure, will be solved in the near future, which will increase their effectiveness as a military weapon.
Unmanned aerial vehicles
As a rule, when it comes to UAVs, they do not mean quadrocopters, but unmanned aerial vehicles with wings that visually resemble airplanes. In fact, they are what they are. Currently, they are considered the most promising type of weapon.
Despite the fact that the first drones capable of solving military tasks appeared as early as 1948, attack UAVs became widespread only in the nineties and two thousandths. Thanks to modern technology, their capabilities began to approach attack aircraft and bombers. And in terms of flight duration, they even surpass many aircraft.
The most interesting thing is that some countries that did not have their own aviation industry broke into the world leaders in the production of UAVs. Perhaps the most famous drone to date is the Bayraktar.
You can’t say he’s the best. However, it was Bayraktar who demonstrated to the world the effectiveness of this type of weapon in several military conflicts.
Also famous for its drones and Israel. Moreover, the first Searcher UAV was introduced to the world back in 1990. But the most famous model is IAI Eitan. It was created more than 15 years ago, but in many respects it surpasses the Turkish Bayraktar.
Russia began to develop its own UAVs later than many other countries. For example, the Forpost light attack drone, which we talked about earlier, cannot be called a completely Russian development, since it was created on the basis of the Israeli Searcher II.
It was only a few years ago that drones developed entirely in Russia began to appear. One of them is Orion, which in some respects surpasses the Turkish Bayraktar .
Of course, the United States also has its own strike UAVs. The most famous to date are the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator. The first is the main US heavy-class strike drone. It is heavier than Bayraktar and Orion, capable of carrying loads weighing up to 1700 kg on board.
In Russia, a similar drone, called the “Hunter”, is currently being tested. If you want us to talk about it, write about it in the comments.
What tasks can UAVs perform
As we have already said, the main task of drones is aerial reconnaissance. However, recently the list of tasks that they are able to solve has expanded significantly.
They are capable of delivering missile and bomb strikes against land and sea targets, intercepting air targets, controlling fire and indicating targets, relaying data and delivering cargo.
Obviously, the list of tasks will not be limited to this list. As we can see, the capabilities of drones are constantly expanding. That is why many experts call them one of the most promising types of weapons of the future.
Perhaps the main advantage of UAVs is their low cost compared to airplanes. Advanced strike drones cost between $5-7 million. At first glance, the amount is colossal, but the cost of the F-35 fighter-bomber reaches $100 million. But just buying a plane is not enough to use it. You still need to train pilots.
Of course, the UAV operator also needs to be trained, however, as mentioned above, modern drones perform many actions automatically. In particular, they can take off and land on their own. Therefore, the pilot training process is much faster and cheaper.
Another important advantage of the UAV is that the operator does not risk his own life when performing combat missions.
A UAV, unlike an airplane, can be made in any size, even the smallest, since it does not contain a cockpit. In addition, drones do not experience physiological overload, which allows them to perform any maneuvers.
The advantages of UAVs are not limited to this. The flight time of drones has no restrictions associated with the pilot’s life support system. Now even projects of non-stop UAVs are being developed. Their flight can last for several years. They can be charged with solar energy.
All this allows the use of UAVs in situations where the use of aviation is impractical or even impossible. In particular, they are often used in risky operations. After all, losing a drone is not as scary as an expensive plane and a pilot.
Kamikaze drones, which are also called smart bombs or loitering projectiles, can be attributed to a separate type of UAV. Their brightest representative is the American Switchblade. But what is this weapon?
Switchblade is a device that is equipped with an engine, cameras, advanced targeting systems and, of course, a warhead.
The drone can be programmed to autonomously attack an object that is many kilometers away from the launch site. Their most interesting feature is that they are able to barrage around a given target, and then strike when the right moment arises.
As you probably guessed, kamikaze drones are disposable weapons. One of their important advantages is their low cost. The price is even lower than the cost of the missiles, which are equipped with strike UAVs. According to some reports, Switchblade costs about 6 thousand dollars.
The Switchblade expands its wings when launched from a mortar, resulting in a small cruise missile. The light version of this drone can be flown within a 10 km radius. The duration of its flight is about 10 minutes. As stated above, he can attack while offline.
The apparatus is driven by an electric motor, thanks to which the projectile flies silently at a speed of about 160 km / h. The heavy version of the Switchblade is capable of attacking targets up to 40 km away and flying at 185 km/h for 40 minutes.
Due to their high speed, quietness and small size, kamikaze drones are very difficult to detect and almost impossible to shoot down. This makes them even more effective than conventional UAVs, which, as practice shows, are not so difficult to shoot down.
Once launched, the drone cannot be returned, but the operator can cancel the attack and redirect the drone. Smart bombs can be used to destroy enemy armored vehicles and infantry. Some models can hit air targets. In fact, this is the only type of drones to date that are capable of performing the functions of a fighter.
The main disadvantages of the UAV
The role of UAVs in modern military conflicts has greatly increased. There were precedents when it was they who predetermined the outcome of battles.
However, this weapon cannot be called ideal today. The main disadvantage is the vulnerability of remote control systems. The enemy can make it impossible to control the drone or even intercept it.
Fully autonomous drones can solve the problem. However, as we have already said , it was decided to abandon the use of autonomous combat robots around the world.
After all, this is fraught with the “rebellion of the machines.” However, there have already been precedents when a combat drone autonomously detected a target and killed a person.
Turkish Kargu-2 drones in 2020 attacked anti-government rebels in Libya in a fully autonomous mode. This was the first and last case to date when a robot independently decided to destroy a person.
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