In the last decade, unmanned aerial vehicles have become a part of the armaments of most of the world’s armies. In addition, some UAVs, such as the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2, have already demonstrated their effectiveness in real combat conditions. At the moment, the army of aerial combat robots is not only strengthened, but also constantly modernized. The day is not far off when drones with artificial intelligence will become the main means of air warfare and, possibly, completely replace the usual manned fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, flying tankers and bombers.
However, don’t get ahead of yourself. Today, dozens of countries around the world produce unmanned aerial vehicles for various purposes, from reconnaissance to attacking. It is still difficult to determine which combat drone is the best in the world today. The fact is that almost nothing is known about many developments. For example, according to Chinese engineers, some projects of the PRC is best in the world even they claimed Chinese UAVs are better than USA and Israeli drones, but in actual combat, Chinese drones were shot down easily. Today we will try to highlight the five best combat drones that are quite well known today.
The fifth on the list is probably the most famous of all modern strike drones, the Turkish Bayraktar TB2. The length of this machine is 6.5 m, the wingspan is 12 m, the range is 150 km, the maximum take-off weight is 650 kg, the maximum payload mass is 55 kg. The Bayraktar TB2 reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicle, created by the Turkish company Baikar Makina, is already in service with several countries. It is a modification of Bayraktar Block-B and belongs to the class of tactical medium-altitude UAVs with a long flight duration.
The drone has more advanced software and control systems than, for example, the Israeli Heron UAV. One Bayraktar complex includes six drones, two ground control stations, power supplies and maintenance kits. The crew includes a crew commander, a pilot-operator and a weapons operator. The Turkish “Bayraktar TB2” is built using modern composite materials and is equipped with a Rotax 912 internal combustion engine with a capacity of 100 hp. The maximum flight speed of the drone is 250 km / h, the cruising speed is 130 km / h. The practical height to which the machine can climb is 7300 meters. In addition, the drone equipment allows the drone to perform fully automatic take-off and landing. The Turkish UAV is equipped with a variety of video cameras and surveillance systems,
In terms of weapons, the Bayraktar TB2 can carry two anti-tank guided missiles and a laser-guided Roketsan MAM-L or MAM-C gliding ammunition. Talking about this drone, it is necessary to note the good characteristics of this machine. During one of the test flights in June and August 2014, the Turkish drone spent 24 hours 34 minutes at an altitude of 8 thousand meters. Among other things, Bayraktar TB2 has already been successfully used in armed conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Number 4th in the list of the best drones was the Israeli Heron-1. It is a medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a long flight duration. The drone is designed for reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as performing other tasks during long flights, which can reach up to 45 hours in time, at altitudes up to 10700 m. Heron is one of the oldest unmanned aerial vehicles. Its first flight took place back in October 1994.
The UAV onboard equipment includes a navigation system with a satellite navigation system (SNS) signal receiver, thanks to which the device is able to fly autonomously for quite a long time (in this mode it can perform almost the entire flight). There is also a semi-automatic mode with operator intervention at certain stages of the mission. The Israeli UAV has the ability to take off and land in automatic mode, which, along with the round-the-clock nature of its use, makes it a truly highly effective and formidable aviation platform for the enemy. Moreover, having lost contact with the ground command post, the device is able to autonomously return to its base.
Heron can carry a wide range of useful equipment: optoelectronic and infrared systems, radio and electronic reconnaissance stations, small radar and the like. UAVs can with high efficiency solve the tasks of adjusting artillery fire and reconnaissance of enemy targets. It was this drone that was successfully used during operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009. At the moment, various Heron modifications are in service with the armies of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, India, Turkey, the United States and, of course, Israel itself.
The third place in the ranking of the best UAVs in the world was taken by the American MQ-9 Reaper drone. The drone was created on the basis of the successful MQ-1 Predator multipurpose UAV from General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc. Work on the machine began privately in 1998, but was funded in part by NASA. The first flight of the prototype took place in February 2001. The MQ-9 Reaper UAV is an enlarged version of the RQ / MQ-1 Predator. The main difference is the “more traditional” V-tail.
The Reaper equipment is basically identical to the MQ-1 equipment and consists of a wide-range infrared optoelectronic sighting system and a radar. This American device can be used as a multipurpose combat complex, armed with AGM-114C / K Hellfire ATGM and other guided weapons. It should be noted that, as such, combat tests of this drone were not carried out. Initially, the new drone demonstrated performance that far exceeded that of its predecessor.
The MQ-9 Reaper is capable of flying at an altitude of 13,700 m for up to 30 hours. According to the American Air Force classification, this drone belongs to the category of “hunter-killer” – an aircraft capable of tracking down a target and destroying it. The Reaper can carry up to 14 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, while the now widely used Predator unmanned aircraft is armed with only two such missiles. When fully loaded, this unmanned vehicle is capable of continuously airborne for 14 hours and has a maximum speed of 480 kilometers per hour. In August 2008, the US Air Force completed the rearmament of the 174th Fighter Air Regiment of the National Guard from F-16 fighters to MQ-9 Reaper. The main advantages over the replaced manned fighters are: lower cost of acquisition and operation,
Next on the list at number second is another American drone. This time it is GAAS Avenger or Predator C. Predator C, like the Predator B variant, is designed to carry about one ton of payload. If stealth is not required for the mission, then the weapon can also be placed on the external suspension of the wing and fuselage. If necessary, additional fuel tanks can be installed in the internal cargo compartment. In this configuration, the device gets an additional 2 hours of flight.
The vertical V-tail of the Predator C deflects radar radiation and reduces the infrared signature of the engine exhaust. The power plant is a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B engine, which provides a maximum flight speed of at least 740 km / h. In addition, the drone’s engine has an S-shaped air intake, which helps cooling and reduces the drone’s infrared visibility.
The wing sweep of the Predator C reaches 17 degrees, and the edges of the empennage are almost parallel. It should be noted that such contours are used on classic stealth projects of American fighter-bombers. In addition to all that has been said, the wing of this American drone is capable of folding, which is a key condition for storage in hangars or on a limited-sized deck of an aircraft carrier.
At the end of the, we will talk about the Russian development of the S-70, which is better known as the Hunter. The history of this machine began in August 2009, when it became known that Sukhoi and MiG began joint work on a heavy attack UAV. This Russian drone made its first flight in August 2019. The device under the control of the operator made several overflights of the airfield at an altitude of about 600 meters and made a successful landing. The first flight of the Hunter lasted exactly 20 minutes.
The Russian attack UAV “Okhotnik” is made according to the “flying wing” scheme with the use of special materials and coatings that make it practically invisible to radar detection equipment. The drone is equipped with equipment for optical-electronic, radio-technical and other types of reconnaissance.
Already on September 27, 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that the new drone performed a successful joint flight with the fifth-generation Su-57 manned fighter jet. During this flight, the device worked out interaction with the leader aircraft. According to some information, the Russian attack drone “Okhotnik” may be armed with a supersonic anti-radar air-to-ground missile X-58. In addition, as experts believe, it is quite possible to use four modified supersonic Kh-74M2 missiles and eight KAB-250 corrected bombs as UAV weapons.
As for artificial intelligence and autonomy, the Russian UAV “Okhotnik” is a prototype of the sixth generation fighter, but it will not receive the function of deciding on the use of weapons, which still remains with humans.