Amid reports of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 drones inflicting significant damage on the Russian side, the latter has now started using the Forpost-R tactical drone to launch airstrikes in Ukraine, Janes reported.
Derived from the Israeli Searcher II drone and manufactured in Russia, the Forpost-R can be deployed for both attack and reconnaissance missions.
On March 13, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) released a video showing an armed Forpost-R drone taking off from an undisclosed runway, following which it is seen destroying a Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher system ( MLRS).
A number of videos are making the rounds on social media, showing the drone wreaking havoc on Ukrainian military troops and their equipment.
It was on March 11 that the deployment of this drone in the ongoing war in Ukraine was first noticed. Photos of the wreckage of a downed Russian drone have surfaced on social media. A plaque bearing the logo of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was visible on the wreckage.
A Russian-licensed copy of the IAI Searcher known as Forpost was shot down today in the Zhytomyr region. pic.twitter.com/kNcpvQR3o2
—OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) March 11, 2022
In 2019, a Russian Forpost drone was shot down in Syria. A defense analyst wrote in his article —It wouldn’t normally raise an eyebrow, but Israel and Syria are enemies, so it’s a remarkable development that Israeli drones are helping Syria via the Russians. Sometimes war makes strange bedfellows.
The Forpost is a reconnaissance drone built by the Yekaterinburg-based Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA) under a production license based on the Israeli Searcher Mk II UAV. Russia acquired the license in 2015.
However, when ties between the West and Russia soured, Israel bowed to US pressure in 2016 and halted delivery of components to Russia.
Russia has developed an attack variant
Israel’s decision prompted the Russian Defense Ministry to launch the Forpost indigenization program. The development of an attack variant of the drone was given priority. The Forpost had previously been used for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition and designation, artillery fire adjustment, damage assessment, and mission monitoring.
UZGA President informed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in January 2017 that an indigenous and improved version of the Forpost would be available for delivery in 2019. In August 2019, the MoD posted a video of a drone known as Forpost-R. Russia further claimed that the test phase of the Forpost-R has been completed and that the drone will enter service in 2020.
#ForpostR unmanned aerial vehicle made its first flight – this is a completely updated modification of the famous #Forpost complex. The aircraft was created from domestic materials, it was equipped with modern electronic and communication equipment and software produced in #Russia pic.twitter.com/K0LL6H0ktn
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) August 22, 2019
The Ministry of Defense claimed that the new drone is equipped with a Russian-made APD-85 piston engine, electro-optics, electronics, data link system and operates on local software. The Forpost-R also has a reinforced fuselage for added durability. The drone has a maximum endurance of 18 hours, a takeoff weight of 500 kg, a service ceiling of approximately 20,000 feet and a maximum range of approximately 400 kilometers.
The MoD and UZGA signed an agreement in February 2020 for 10 new Forpost-R drones. A Forpost-R was displayed at the Army-2021 defense exhibition in Kubinka, Russia in August 2021. It was equipped with two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) of the 9K135 Kornet system.
During the Zapad-2021 exercise in September, a Forpost-R equipped with two KAB-20 family guided bombs, one under each wing, was seen in action. The Forpost-R shown in the MoD video appears to be equipped with the same family of bombs.
The “KAB” stands for Korrektiruemaya Aviatsionnaya Bomba, which translates to “corrected aerial bomb” in English. The number “20” signifies the estimated weight of the artillery in kilograms. The KAB-20 family was created by the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics.
In addition to the 9M133 and KAB-20 families, the Forpost-R can be equipped with a variety of general-purpose free-fall “dumb” bombs. The drone would be able to carry a payload of up to 120 kg.