During the international defense exhibition known as IDEX 2019, the Kalashnikov Group, the famous rifle manufacturer, revealed a kamikaze-style drone.
Judging from the limited information available, the KUB-BLA Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is very small, with dimensions of 1210 х 950 х 165 mm.
“This is an extremely precise and very effective weapon, incredibly hard to fight by traditional air defense systems,” said Sergey Chemezov, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Rostec Corporation, which owns the Kalashnikov Group. “The explosive can be delivered to target regardless of how well hidden it is. It operates regardless of hidden terrains, at both high and low altitude.”
According to representatives from the Kalashnikov Group, the drone has been tested by the Russian military and some have already been issued to front-line units.
The concept behind Kalashnikov’s drone isn’t novel. Currently, the U.S Army and U.S. Marine Corps operate a small number of similar suicide drones. The Switchblade Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been issued to small unit elements, like infantry platoons and Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA), among other outfits. The Switchblade provides organic and time-sensitive close-air-support (CAS) and intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) capabilities to troops on the ground. It’s light and small, weighing about six pounds, and has a warhead explosive capability similar to that of a 40 mm grenade. With regard to endurance, speed, and range, it can fly for up to 15 minutes, achieve a maximum speed of 85 knots, and it’s effective up to six miles from its operator. It is launched by a mortar-style tube.
In comparison, the Russian drone has an endurance of 30 minutes, a maximum speed of 70 knots, and has a warhead of eight pounds. With respect to targeting, the KUB-BLA drone can be either guided on target by its operator or fly according to a pre-inserted targeting package. The announcement didn’t specify how the drone is launched and if its published weight includes the launching apparatus.
Russians forces–or proxies–have been known to be more reliant on UAVs for basic soldiering tasks. In Ukraine, for example, much of the close-target reconnaissance happens via small drones.
The Kalashnikov Group is best known for its production of assault rifles. Recently, however, it has been extending into different markets in an attempt to diversify and enlarge its portfolio. Some products of this endeavor are small patrol watercraft. Now the KUB-BLA drone is a further testament to the diversification initiative.
IDEX 2019 is taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.