Warplanes: Tipchak Trips Forward


February 7, 2009: Russia will receive one Tipchak UAV system a year over the next three years. Each system consists of six UAVs, plus ground control and maintenance equipment. Unhappy with the abilities of the Tipchak, and the lack of speed in producing them, Russia is negotiating to purchase more capable Israeli UAVs.

Russia originally developed the Tipchak for use by artillery units, but now plans to also use it for battlefield reconnaissance in general. The Tipchak weighs 132 pounds, has a payload of 32 pounds and can stay in the air for two hours per sortie. The Tipchak can operate as high as 10,000 feet. The day/night cameras enable the operator to spot targets up to 40 kilometers away, and provide accurate location information for guns or rocket. The original plan was that each artillery brigade (with three or four gun or rocket battalions) would have a Tipchak unit attached. But now the Tipchaks will be used wherever needed.

Western armies use a different approach to finding targets for artillery, relying on observers and UAVs belonging to infantry and armor units, rather than the artillery units themselves having their own aerial spotters. However, back in World War II, Western armed forces used a system similar to Russian one. In the West, things evolved. In Russia, not so much.

The Tipchak probably won't get many export sales, even if sold at a very low price, because of the short duration of each sortie for a UAV of that size. If the Tipchak has an endurance of six hours or more, its sales prospects would increase considerably. With that in mind, Russia is developing a larger version of the Tipchak, with longer endurance and the ability to launch missiles (similar to the 106 pound U.S. Hellfire.) But Russian UAV development moves too slowly, which is another reason Russian wants to buy some Israeli UAVs, and see up-close what the state-of-the-art looks like.



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