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Crew of Russia’s Tu-95MS strategic bomber practices in-flight use of drone

The source did not specify the type of the drone used during the trials

MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. During recent exercises, the crew of a Russian Tu-95MS strategic bomber practiced in-flight guidance of an unmanned aerial vehicle from the cockpit, a Russian defense industry source told TASS on Wednesday

"Recently, flight trials were held to practice the interaction between a Tu-95MS and a drone. In other words, they trained to guide the drone from the plane’s cockpit," the source said, adding that the plane had been refit with special drone guidance equipment.

The source did not specify the type of the drone used during the trials. He also did not confirm that such trials ever involved the Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy strike drone, but did not rule out the possibility of such exercises in the future.

"What really matters here is to practice the process itself, the type of drone would be irrelevant," he said.

Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces Lt. Gen. Sergei Dronov said on August 12 that during the development of UAVs, special attention is paid to integrating them into a single system with manned aircraft.

Russia’s Okhotnik heavy attack drone developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau performed its debut flight on August 3, 2019. The flight lasted over 20 minutes under an operator’s control. On September 27, 2019, the Okhotnik performed a flight together with a Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet. The drone maneuvered in the air in the automated mode at an altitude of around 1,600 meters and its flight lasted over 30 minutes.

The Okhotnik features stealth technology and the flying wing design (it lacks the tail) and has a take-off weight of 20 tonnes. The drone has a jet engine and is capable of developing a speed of around 1,000 km/h.

According to the data of Russia’s Defense Ministry, the drone has anti-radar coating and is outfitted with equipment for electro-optical, radar and other types of reconnaissance.