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Soviet/Russian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Soviet/Russian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2005 Title Soviet/Russian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Author Yefim Gordon Publisher Midland Publications
Published 2004 ISBN 1-85780-193-8
Format 128 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $34.95


Soviet designers started working with remotely controlled aircraft after World War 2 to serve in a variety of roles. Many of these initial remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) were obsolete fighters and bombers slated for one last contribution. As surface-to-air missile technology started to build momentum in the 1950s, the obsolete target drones were being augmented by special purpose build drones. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was born.

Unlike the United States where UAVs were prohibited from carrying weapons or conducting other missions aside from reconnaissance and target, the Soviets gradually expanded their own research into the field. Many of the key OKBs dedicated resources into UAV research, as reflected in the table of contents:

  • Lavochkin's Smallest and Biggest
  • The Pilotless Tupolevs
  • Yak 'Birds and Bees'
  • Kamov Joins the Game
  • Current Developments

In this field of UAV research, there are some startling developments, such as a copy of the US D-21 drone that was carried initially by an M-12 mothership and later the B-52.

The more impressive vehicle is the series Tu-139 through Tu-143 which resembles a 1950s era US ground-launched cruise missile and is massive in size. These vehicles were (and are still) used for reconnaissance in areas to dangerous for manned platforms.

In the current development category, the author takes a look at a variety of fixed and rotary-winged designs that are not unlike the Predator and Firehawk series. A closer look provides additional insight into the direction and state of the art being employed by Russian designers.

In any case, this is an excellent reference to a look inside what used to be the classified files of Soviet OKBs. You'll be fascinated from the moment you pick up this title! This book is definitely recommended for the aviation historian and modeler alike!