Revolutionary Advancements in Unmanned Warfare: Russia’s Autonomous Anti-Tank Drone


In a groundbreaking development that marks a significant leap forward in military technology, Russia has reportedly unveiled a new type of drone with capabilities that could fundamentally alter the landscape of modern warfare. This drone, equipped to carry and autonomously operate the 9K111 Fagot wire-guided anti-tank missile system, capable of launching a 9M111 missile (NATO reporting name AT-4 Spigot), represents an unparalleled integration of unmanned technology and missile systems. The revelation came through a video published on Telegram, showcasing the drone’s advanced functionalities and hinting at the future of combat operations.

The integration of the 9K111 Fagot system with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) opens a new chapter in tactical warfare. The 9K111 Fagot, a renowned anti-tank missile system that has seen extensive use over the decades, is known for its precision and reliability in targeting armored vehicles and fortifications. By harnessing the capabilities of this missile system within a drone, Russia is not only expanding the operational scope of the 9K111 Fagot but also pioneering a novel approach to unmanned combat.

What sets this drone apart is its ability to operate in a fully autonomous flight mode, enabling it to engage targets without the need for direct human intervention. This feature paves the way for a new kind of warfare, where unmanned systems can independently execute complex missions, potentially increasing the efficiency and safety of military operations. The autonomy of such drones raises pivotal questions regarding the future of unmanned combat and the evolving nature of warfare, where human decision-making may increasingly be supplemented or replaced by automated systems.

Although specific details regarding the drone’s operational range, payload capacity, and deployment timeline remain undisclosed, the video provides a glimpse into Russia’s significant strides in marrying unmanned systems with missile technology. This innovation is not just a technological achievement; it signifies a strategic shift in military tactics and capabilities, potentially influencing global military dynamics.

The implications of deploying such advanced military technology are profound. As nations grapple with the challenges and opportunities presented by unmanned warfare, the introduction of drones capable of autonomously operating anti-tank missiles could spur a technological arms race, compelling countries to reassess their defense strategies and capabilities. This development could also influence the calculus of power in regions marred by conflict, offering new tactical advantages that could alter the balance of power.

Image : Russia has conducted a test fire of 9K111 anti-tank guided missile from a quadcopter drone.

The 9K111 Fagot system’s legacy, dating back to its introduction in the 1970s, highlights its enduring relevance in combat scenarios. Its wire-guidance mechanism allows operators to steer the missile in flight, offering precision targeting against moving vehicles. The 9M111 missile, with its high penetration capability and effective range of approximately 2,500 meters, exemplifies the technological ingenuity behind the system. The adoption of such a system in an autonomous drone underscores the potential for innovation in leveraging existing technologies for modern warfare applications.

As the world watches this development unfold, the strategic implications of autonomous military technology come to the forefront of international security discussions. The advent of drones capable of independently operating anti-tank missiles not only challenges existing military doctrines but also prompts ethical and strategic debates about the nature of future conflicts. With the potential to reshape the dynamics of ground warfare, this technological advancement by Russia marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of military capabilities, heralding a new era of unmanned combat that could redefine the principles of engagement on the battlefield.

Analyzing the Perun-F Drone and its Missile Capabilities

The video depicting the Perun-F drone in action offers a detailed glimpse into its operational capabilities and technological advancements. Released footage showcases the drone’s proficiency in lifting off, achieving a semi-stable hovering state, and executing a precise missile launch. Notably, the Perun-F demonstrates the ability to fire a powerful 120-millimeter diameter missile, despite encountering significant kickback from the gas-generator, which propels the missile from the tube at an impressive speed of 180 miles per hour.

An intriguing aspect highlighted in the video is the drone’s capability to fire the missile while in a landed position. This unique feature opens avenues for tactical maneuvers, such as setting up ambushes from unexpected positions. The decision to mount the missile atop the drone, rather than underneath, suggests strategic considerations aimed at optimizing its combat effectiveness.

Following the missile launch, the video showcases the ignition of the missile’s solid-fuel rocket motor, propelling it to a velocity of 420 miles per hour. This velocity is reminiscent of the top speeds attained by late World War II fighter planes, emphasizing the considerable firepower and agility of the Perun-F drone and its accompanying weaponry.

However, the demonstration also reveals a potential drawback in the Basoon missile’s guidance system. Ordinarily, the missile relies on semi-automatic guidance by a human operator, utilizing a spool-out wire connected to the missile throughout its flight. In the absence of direct human intervention, the missile’s accuracy diminishes significantly, rendering it akin to an unguided rocket with limited precision. This poses a critical challenge to the effectiveness of the Perun-F in engaging distant or maneuvering targets without real-time human guidance.

The absence of an onboard operator raises questions about the drone’s autonomous capabilities and its reliance on remote command and control systems. While advancements in autonomous technology have enabled drones to execute complex tasks independently, the effectiveness of such systems in dynamic combat scenarios remains a subject of debate.

Furthermore, the video prompts discussions regarding the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to enhance the Perun-F’s targeting capabilities. By leveraging real-time data analysis and predictive algorithms, the drone could potentially compensate for the lack of human guidance, thereby improving its overall accuracy and operational efficiency.

In conclusion, the video depicting the Perun-F drone and its missile capabilities offers valuable insights into the evolving landscape of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in modern warfare. While showcasing impressive firepower and maneuverability, the demonstration underscores the importance of addressing challenges related to guidance systems and autonomous operation to maximize the drone’s combat effectiveness in diverse operational environments.

Pioneering the Integration of Legacy Anti-Tank Missiles with Modern Drone Technology

In a remarkable feat of military innovation, an old yet formidable weapon, the 9M111 Fagot (“Bassoon”) anti-tank guided missile, codenamed AT-4 Spigot by NATO, has been repurposed for modern warfare through its integration with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Weighing in at 28 pounds, including its launch canister and gas booster, the missile system represents a significant payload challenge for aerial platforms. This challenge is further compounded by the absence of the traditional 50-pound 9K111 launcher’s 9P135 tripod launch post, although the 9S451 guidance box and the 10x magnification 9Sh119 sight remain attached, adding considerable weight.

The adaptation of this missile system for use with drones underscores a novel approach to leveraging existing military hardware in contemporary conflict scenarios. Volunteers have ingeniously mounted the launcher atop a heavy-duty Perun-F quadcopter drone, distinguished as a “heavy assault quadcopter.” Intriguingly, the Perun-F appears to be a derivative or adaptation of the Chinese EFT Z50 agricultural spraying drone. This drone is known for its robust payload capacity, capable of carrying up to 110 pounds, making it a suitable platform for such a heavy and sophisticated missile system. The commercial availability of the EFT Z50, with prices ranging between $7,000 to $10,000 USD, suggests an accessible, albeit unconventional, route to augmenting military capabilities through commercial technology.

The EFT Z50’s specifications are notable for this application; it has a base weight of 100 pounds, including batteries, and showcases an operational versatility with an endurance to hover for 7 minutes at full payload capacity and up to 20 minutes when unloaded. Its control mechanism, facilitated through a remote device with a 5.5” screen, provides a range of up to 1.86 miles, offering a blend of precision and flexibility for remote operations.

This inventive integration of the 9M111 Fagot missile system with a drone such as the Perun-F represents a significant shift in military tactics and capabilities. The use of drones, especially those adapted from civilian applications like the EFT Z50, for deploying traditional anti-tank guided missiles in conflict zones, illustrates a growing trend towards asymmetric warfare strategies. These strategies leverage technological ingenuity to maximize the effectiveness of existing armaments in new and unpredictable ways.

The heavier payload capacity of the Perun-F, compared to most civilian drones used in conflict scenarios, opens new tactical possibilities for ground engagement. By enabling the remote and aerial deployment of anti-tank missiles, such as the 9M111 Fagot, military forces can achieve greater flexibility and precision in targeting armored vehicles or fortifications. This approach not only extends the operational life of legacy missile systems but also enhances their utility in modern warfare environments, characterized by rapid technological evolution and unconventional tactics.

As military analysts and technologists continue to observe these developments, the implications for future warfare are profound. The blending of commercial drone technology with traditional military hardware suggests a continuing trend towards more innovative, cost-effective, and adaptable solutions in warfare. This evolution underscores the necessity for ongoing adaptation and innovation within military and defense strategies to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the integration of new technologies with established weapon systems.

The pioneering use of the Perun-F drone to carry the 9M111 Fagot missile system exemplifies the potential for creative approaches to enhancing military capabilities. As such, it represents a key development in the broader context of unmanned warfare and the strategic use of technology in combat operations. This advancement not only demonstrates the potential for integrating different generations of military technology but also highlights the increasing significance of drones in performing complex and varied combat roles, signaling a shift towards more autonomous and versatile platforms in future military engagements.

The Evolution of Drones and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles in Warfare: Feasibility and Challenges

In recent years, the utilization of commercial drones in anti-tank warfare has emerged as a significant phenomenon, particularly evident in the conflict in Ukraine. Initially deployed for gravity-bombing armored vehicles with anti-tank grenades, these drones showcased remarkable accuracy, albeit primarily effective against immobilized or abandoned targets. However, by the winter of 2022/2023, a notable evolution occurred with the introduction of faster, remotely piloted first-person view drones equipped to ram enemy vehicles while carrying contact-fused rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) warheads. This advancement allowed for better engagement of moving targets and presented the potential for mass production at a rapid pace, with tens of thousands being produced monthly.

Concurrently, the discussion expanded to encompass the feasibility of integrating anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) into drone warfare. Contrary to RPGs, ATGMs represent a distinct class of weaponry characterized by their heavier weight, greater cost, longer ranges (typically 1-4 miles), and precision guidance capabilities. Functioning as long-distance snipers capable of neutralizing tanks, ATGMs offer enhanced tactical flexibility. This capability was further exemplified by the effectiveness of ATGM-launching helicopters, which demonstrated superior mobility and situational awareness while operating beyond the range of short-range air defenses.

The integration of ATGMs into drone warfare presents unique challenges, primarily revolving around target acquisition and guidance. Unlike RPGs, which are deployed in close defense or ambush scenarios, ATGMs require precise targeting and guidance mechanisms to maximize effectiveness. One proposed solution involves tethering the drone to the missile’s analog guidance system on the ground, albeit at the cost of mobility. Alternatively, the development of a remote-control command link for legacy ATGMs poses technical and financial challenges that may surpass the capabilities of DIY volunteers.

image : FPV drones armed with explosives are cheaper and more effective than missiles fired from mortars / photo archive by Szczepan Twardoch

The evolution of ATGM technology introduces further complexity. While older models like the 9K111 exhibit limitations such as minimum engagement distances and insufficient armor penetration, newer variants like the 9M133 Kornet and 9M131 Metis-M offer enhanced capabilities, including laser-beam riding guidance systems and increased armor penetration. However, the adoption of Western-style fire-and-forget missiles remains inaccessible to Russian volunteers due to technological constraints.

The integration of ATGMs into drone warfare presents both opportunities and obstacles. While advancements in technology offer the potential for enhanced precision and lethality, practical challenges related to target acquisition, guidance, and compatibility with existing systems must be addressed. As conflict dynamics continue to evolve, the feasibility and effectiveness of utilizing drones armed with ATGMs will remain subjects of ongoing scrutiny and innovation on the modern battlefield.

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