Russia’s Ilyushin Il-76MD-90 (NATO reporting name: Candid) military transport plane will be able to carry up to eight Molniya air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a defense industry source told TASS.
One fighter jet will be capable of carrying up to three UAVs that will be able to hit adversary targets and conduct reconnaissance, the source added.
“Today, several options for the launch and use of Molniya drones are being considered. Il-76MD-90 aircraft will be able to carry up to eight UAVs, up to three devices can be simultaneously deployed on operational/tactical aircraft. Two drones can be attached to the Altius-RU and Grom heavy UAVs,” the source said.
According to the concept of multi-purpose drones, the Molniya will be able to hit enemy targets, conduct aerial reconnaissance and accomplish other special tasks.
Earlier, the press office of the Kronstadt Company told TASS that the Molniya was adapted for operations as part of a swarm of drones. “There is a constant data exchange among the drones. It is possible to change the mission of each drone in the swarm. Leaders may change and replace each other. The artificial intelligence allows fulfilling the mission within the group without constant communications with the carrier aircraft,” the press office said.
The Molniya light drone is being developed in addition to the Grom heavy UAV. According to open sources, the UAV has a wingspan of about 1.2 m and a payload of 5-7 kg. The Molniya will be able to carry reconnaissance equipment. A strike version, namely, a loitering munition with a warhead, is planned to be developed.