Ukraine conflict: Russia employs Forpost-R UCAV

by Miko Vranic

A screenshot from a Russian MoD video showing the Forpost-R UCAV departing for a mission over Ukraine. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Russian forces in Ukraine have been seen fielding the Forpost-R unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) for the first time.

A video released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Russian Federation on 13 March showed an armed Forpost-R taking off from an unidentified prepared airstrip, before the footage cut to a Ukrainian multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) being destroyed by the UCAV.

The Forpost-R is an improved and indigenised model variant of the Forpost (Outpost), which is the Israeli Searcher Mk II UAV assembled by the Yekaterinburg-based Ural Civil Aviation Plant (Ural‘skiy Zavod Grazhdanskoy Aviatsii: UZGA) since 2011 under licence using components manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). As the relations between the West and Russia soured, in 2016 Israel bowed to US pressure and informed Russia that no further component deliveries will take place. This event spurred the MoD to embark on the Forpost indigenisation programme. Apart from indigenisation, development of an attack Forpost iteration also became an objective of the endeavour. Up to that point, Forpost was used for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition and designation, artillery-fire adjustment, damage assessment, and mission overwatch.

In January 2017 the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, was informed by the UZGA head that an indigenised and improved model variant of Forpost would be ready for delivery in 2019. Subsequently, in August 2019, the MoD released a video of a UAV designated as the Forpost-R. The MoD also stated that the testing phase of the Forpost-R has been successfully completed and that the UAV is to enter service in 2020. In addition, the MoD revealed that the new UAV is fitted with the Russian-made APD-85 piston engine, electro-optics, electronics, datalink system, and that it runs on domestic software. The Forpost-R also features a reinforced fuselage for increased survivability. The UAV has reported maximum endurance of 18 hours and take-off weight of 500 kg, with a nearly 20,000 ft service ceiling, and a maximum range of around 400 km.

In February 2020 the MoD and UZGA signed a contract for 10 new Forpost-R UCAVs, thought to comprise three UCAVs each, for delivery by 2023.

During the Army-2021 defence exhibition held in Kubinka, Russia, in August 2021, a Forpost-R was on display, armed with two 9M133-family anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) of the 9K135 Kornet system. In September, during the strategic level quadrennial Zapad-2021 exercise, a Forpost-R armed with two KAB-20-family guided bombs, one under each wing, was observed in use. The Forpost-R featured in the MoD video mentioned at the beginning of the article appears to be armed with the same bomb family.

The ‘KAB' part of the designation is an acronym of Korrektiruemaya Aviatsionnaya Bomba or literally ‘corrected aerial bomb' in English, while the number ‘20' denotes the approximate weight of the ordnance in kilograms. The KAB-20-family has been developed by the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics named after Dmitri Mendeleev in Moscow within the R&D framework named ‘Balistika-2'. The family is thought to comprise model variants with different guidance systems such as laser and satellite positioning, thought to be designated as KAB-20L and KAB-20S respectively, and with different warhead options: demolition, thermobaric, and penetration.

Apart from the 9M133 and KAB-20 family, the attack iteration of Forpost-R can also be armed with various free-fall general-purpose ‘dumb' bombs. The UAV is reportedly able to carry a maximum payload of 120 kg.

TNI-AU plans to deploy two new UAV squadrons

by Akhil Kadidal

An Anka MALE UAV equipped with sensors and weapons at IDEX 2023, Abu Dhabi. This UAV was armed with MAM-L munitions and a ŞİMŞEK aerial target on the port hardpoint (not visible in this photograph). (Janes/Akshara Parakala)

The Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara: TNI-AU) has announced that it will add two additional unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadrons to its operational forces.

State-owned media said on 29 February that the two new units will be deployed at Anang Busra Air Base in Tarakan in North Kalimantan and at Abdul Rachman Saleh Air Base at Malang in East Java.

The new squadrons will be equipped with Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ) Anka (Phoenix) medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, according to First Marshal R Agung Sasongkojati, head of the TNI-AU's Information Service (Kadispenau).

“Currently, we already have [UAV] squadrons, namely Squadron 51 in Pontianak and Squadron 52 in Natuna. We will add two more squadrons, namely 53 in Tarakan and 54 in Abdul Rachman Saleh [Air Base] in Malang,” said First Marshal Sasongkojati.


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UK's swarming drone rollout stymied by ‘competing resource priorities'

by Gareth Jennings

An artist's conceptualisation of a swarming drone capability being developed by 216 Squadron. However, since being formed in 2020, the unit, which is tasked with testing future drone swarm technology, has completed no tests or trials either in-house or with industry, the government has disclosed. (Leonardo)

The United Kingdom's effort to develop and field an unmanned ‘swarming drone' capability is being stymied by “competing resource priorities”, the government disclosed on 4 March.

Answering questions in the House of Commons, Minister of State for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) James Cartlidge said the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) 216 Squadron had performed no ‘swarming drone' tests or trials as resources had been diverted elsewhere.

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GEOST bets on focal plane, edge computing capabilities for PWSA fire control

by Carlo Munoz

An artist's rendition of Sierra Space's T2TL low Earth orbit satellite prototype for the PWSA. (Sierra Space)

Arizona-based sensor payload company GEOST is betting big that improved focal plane fidelity, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled imagery processing at the edge, will be the solution for the new fire-control payload being developed for the Pentagon's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

GEOST – a subsidiary of LightRidge Solutions – and the Space Development Agency (SDA) in February reached a deal for GEOST to develop and produce 16 fire-control mission payloads for Tranche 2 Tracking Layer (T2TL) of the PWSA.

The PWSA payload contract “is a transformational win” for the GEOST team, according to Bill Gattle, CEO of LightRidge Solutions.

The payload development deal “does open up new markets … proving that some of the things we have done, at a smaller scale, we can now do at a larger scale”, he said during an early February interview with Janes .

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