May 11, 2014

Mystery Object in Near-collision May Be Russian UCAV

The Russian UCAV program revealed in 2007 might have reached the flight-test phase. The evidence comes from a near midair, reported by the pilots of two L-29 jet trainers belonging to a civilian flying club near Ulyanovsk. The L-29 pilots rapidly altered heading and altitude to escape collision with an unidentified flying object that they described as “a heavyweight unmanned air vehicle.”
The object was also detected by ATC radar, flying at 270 knots and nearly 7,000 feet. Approaching the L-29s from the rear, it might have flown into them if not for the controller warning the pilots. The object proceeded in the direction of Penza and disappeared from the radar screen. The pilots’ description indicates it was a jet-powered UCAV with swept wings. In theory, it might be an old Tupolev Tu-143 Reis reconnaissance UAV or a newer Tu-300 Korshun experimental UAV made during 1990s. Local media reported that the mysterious object bore greater similarity to the Skat.
Russian defense ministry denied knowledge of the incident. Just days before the incident, defense minister told journalists that funding for new UAV designs has been approved, with deliveries due by 2020. The Russian armed forces already operate about 500 UAVs.
RAC MiG exhibited the Skat UCAV at the MAKS 2007 airshow in Moscow as a full-scale mockup. The maker described it as a stealthy multipurpose UCAV intended for striking pre-located stationary targets and suppression of enemy air defense system in conditions of severe ECM and antiaircraft fire. The UCAV should be able to successfully engage hidden and heavily protected land and sea targets and conduct its operations either autonomously or as part of a larger aviation strike force.

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