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Upgraded Russian Su-30SM2 Fighter to Control Combat Drones

Russia’s Su-30SM2 naval fighters will be re-configured with a system to control attack drones mid-air, Izvestia revealed, citing sources.

This year, the Russian Navy has inducted four multirole SM2s, an upgrade on the Su-30SM that boasts a more powerful engine, radar, and “smart weapons.”

A “communication complex” is being built to allow the two-seat aircraft to communicate with and direct a range of unmanned aerial aircraft, including the S-70 Okhotnik.

Photo of Russia's Okhotnik heavy attack drone.
Okhotnik heavy attack drone. Image: Russian Defense Ministry/TASS

Data Exchange System

Russia is developing a two-seat version of the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter that controls multiple Okhotniks flying in tandem

Head of the scientific and technical center NPP Polyot Aleksey Ratner said that the integrated communications and data exchange system being developed for the Su-57 will also be installed in the SM2 during the upgrade.

The data exchange system allows the real-time exchange of information with other fixed and rotary wing aircraft and ground control points, sending and receiving “target designation, and [inclusion] in modern command and control systems.”

Wingman Drone

Military analyst Vladislav Shurygin told Izvestia that the SM2’s co-pilot could interact with the drone and provide it with target coordinates while the pilot is flying the aircraft. He ruled out the pilot steering the unmanned platform.

Shurygin said that the wingman drones could “reconnoiter ground targets for aircraft strikes and evaluate the results,” adding that drones with powerful radars could work as the “eyes and ears” of the aircraft, helping it control the situation from hundreds of kilometers away.

Additional roles include marine patrol and penetrating well-defended targets without risk to the aircraft.

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