The crew of a Russian Tu-95 MS strategic bomber carried out in-flight guidance of a drone from the cockpit during an exercise recently. Known by the NATO reporting name of ‘Bear’, the Tu-95 dates back to 1952 and is the only in-service strategic bomber older than the US Air Force’s Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
Tu-95 is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform operated by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The Tu-95 was refitted with special drone guidance equipment to enable it to practice the in-flight use of a UAV.
A Russian defense industry source said, “Recently, flight trials were held to practice the interaction between a Tu-95MS and a drone. In other words, they trained to guide the drone from the plane’s cockpit.”
The industry source refused to divulge details of the drone. However, there is speculation that a Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy strike drone was used during the trial.
“What really matters here is to practice the process itself, the type of drone would be irrelevant,” added the source.
Last year, the Okhotnik had flown with a Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet, wherein the drone maneuvered in the air at an altitude of around 1,600 meters, with the flight lasting for over 30 minutes.
According to sources, the drone could be used to distract the defenses and perform reconnaissance to locate, identify, and track targets for the Tu-95 bomber.
The Okhotnik weighs 20 tons and can reach a near-supersonic speed of 1,000 km/hour while carrying its payload internally.
The EurAsian Times has already reported that the Russian military conducted a series of flight tests of the Okhotnik heavy attack drone recently.