Kyiv-based Luch Design Bureau last week unveiled its Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) project, the Sokil-300 (Falcon-300), a strike drone slated to be the first designed and produced exclusively in Ukraine.
The opening presentation at the Vizar missile plant outside Kyiv featured a full-size model of the combat-ready UAS.
Chief designer, Oleh Korostyliov, explained the reason for developing a proprietary, strike-capable drone entirely in Ukraine.
“Why did we decide to start the development process? Because over the recent years, with all the projects we have completed, we have in fact cultivated most of the technologies needed to build a full-fledged aerial vehicle,” the Kyiv Post quoted him.
Design completion for the project has taken “almost a year and a half” for the development team, utilizing previous bureau-designed technologies from its RK-360MC Neptune missile system.
RK-360MC control points and software — widely regarded as a source of pride for the Ukrainian arms industry — will also be used in the Sokil-300.
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Beyond this, the new UAS’ navigation components, such as its range measuring system, laser channel, and optics, are set to be manufactured in the Eastern European country. The drone’s thermal guidance system is its only navigational element to be outsourced.
Luch’s project proposal to the military features three different versions according to the engines they will use.
The “basic version” includes the MC-500B engine manufactured by Zaporizhia-based Motor Sich and will allow the Sokil-300 three hours of operation with a cruising speed of 335 kilometers (208 miles) per hour and a maximum range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
A second version will include an engine produced by Ivchenko-Progress, the AI-450T2, which will allow five hours of flight time and a 1,300 kilometer (808 miles) range but a lower cruising speed of 275 kilometers (170 miles) per hour.
The final, long-range version features the Austrian, turbo-charged Rotax 914 engine with a maximum flight time of 26 hours, a distance of 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles), but a comparatively snail-like cruising speed of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour.
Korostyliov explained, “That is the rule of machinery, [you] need to choose between high velocity and long operational ranges.”
Ukraine’s Accelerated Defense Technology Development
With this array of options, Ukrainian armed forces will decide which version suits their operational requirements best.
All versions can carry 4 RK-2P guided missiles with the portable Barrier anti-tank missile system or Luch RK-10 missiles, up to 300 kilograms of payload.
However, developers expect the system, which is operated by a two-man crew, to be deployed more in surveillance than for missile strikes.
The drone’s airframe, which was created under a slight influence of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator system, has a wingspan of 14 meters and a length of 6.5 meters.
The UAS airframe, partly influenced by the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, is 6.5 meters long with a 14-meter wingspan.
Total development costs of the Sokil-300 are expected to reach 40-45 million Ukrainian hryvnias ($1.4-1.6 million), a far less expensive option than purchasing similar drone systems abroad.
The recent accelerated development of defense technology in Ukraine has been spurred by its ongoing conflict with Russian separatists in the east of the country and the 2014 annexation of Crimea.