The Complex

Meet Skat, Russia’s stealthy drone

It looks like Russia is going to go ahead with its plan to join the stealth drone club by continuing development of the MiG Skat UAV. (Yes, the legendary Soviet jet-maker’s premier drone is called Skat. I’m told skat is the Russian word for stingray.) Pictures showing mock-ups of the stealthy-looking unmanned jet have been ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

It looks like Russia is going to go ahead with its plan to join the stealth drone club by continuing development of the MiG Skat UAV. (Yes, the legendary Soviet jet-maker’s premier drone is called Skat. I’m told skat is the Russian word for stingray.)

Pictures showing mock-ups of the stealthy-looking unmanned jet have been circulating for years. (We’ve got to say, it’s pretty ugly compared to its American, French, British, and even Chinese counterparts.)

After years of showing off the mock-up, MiG signed a contract with Russia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry on May 15 to develop an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle based on the Skat design — that’s a fancy way of saying a stealthy killer drone.

Like its fellow batwing-shaped drones around the globe, the new Russian drone is meant to fly autonomously, slip past enemy radars, and take out ground targets such as surface to air missiles — thereby kicking in the door for manned aircraft with larger payloads and bigger targets.

According to Russia’s state-owned Ria Novosti news agency:

Skat is designed to carry out strike missions on stationary targets, especially air defense systems in high-threat areas, as well as mobile land and sea targets.

Skat will operate in autonomous modes as well as in conjunction with other manned systems, MiG says.

A "flying wing" design, Skat has a projected weight of 10 tons, a two-ton payload, a range of 2,500 miles (4,000 km), a speed of 500 mph (800 km/h) and a ceiling of 36,000 feet (12,000 m).

Russia’s stealth drone program is way behind that of the stealth drone-building nations listed above. While the U.S. has been flying such planes for over a decade and French, British and Chinese designs are flying or about to, the Skat isn’t even past the mock-up phase. Just today Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said today that Russian-made UAV are inferior to their foreign counterparts, according to another RIA Novosti article.

"This is due to the technological backwardness of enterprises, weak organization of state contract fulfillment and a shortage of skilled personnel," the news agency quotes Shoigu as saying.

The Skat contract comes as Russia is working to field the manned Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA fighter jet. The T-50 is designed to compete with the U.S. F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The T-50 is apparently not quite as stealthy as the Raptor but more maneuverable — and likely cheaper. It will feature advanced avionics like Active Electronically Scanned Array radars and will carry air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-ship weapons. Unlike the F-22, the T-50 is available for export with Russia and India partnering to build a version of the jet for the Indian air force.

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