Russia Touts Drone Swarms and Electromagnetic Cannon for Sixth-Gen Fighter

Russia's T-50 fighter conducts an aerial demonstration.
Russia's T-50 fighter conducts an aerial demonstration.

Russian's sixth-generation fighter jet -- still a decade away from reality -- will operate in conjunction with drone swarms armed with electromagnetic cannons, an official said.

Vladimir Mikheev, an adviser to the deputy head of Radioelectronic Technologies Concern -- part of the Moscow-based state corporation Rostec -- this week said the aircraft will be unveiled in 2025, fly a speeds of up to March 4 or 5 and reach near space, according to an article on RT, citing another Russian news agency TASS.

It will also allow a pilot to command between five and 10 nearby drone aircraft -- interestingly, with their number and task dependent on the operator's rank, the article states.

"Depending on the status, he [the pilot] is given several subordinate drones," Mikheev is quoting as saying. "They, in their turn, understand –-- they must protect, for example, lieutenant Petrov. But if colonel Ivanov is in the cockpit, the number of subordinate drones should be more, and so forth."

The drone aircraft will also be equipped with high-frequency electromagnetic cannons -- too powerful for manned aircraft to operate without hurting pilots -- designed to knock out enemy radio signals from a distance of about six miles (10 kilometers), according to the article.

How much is this is just marketing remains to be seen. And to be sure, the U.S. is also working on sixth-generation fighter designs after the introduction of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fifth-generation aircraft, the latter of which is still in development.

Northrop Grumman Corp., maker of the B-2 stealth bomber and the company chosen by the U.S. Air Force to develop a Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRSB, ran a commercial in February during the Super Bowl showing its concept for a sixth-generation fighter jet.

But rather than create a single sixth-gen platform capable of overcoming today's threats -- cyber, electronic attack, anti-satellite, surface-to-air -- the Air Force has signaled an interest in trying to develop new weapons such as directed energy and hypersonic missiles that can be installed on updated aircraft.

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