Moscow:  Russia will test its first domestically-produced strike unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2014, First Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Sukhorukov said on Friday. In February, Army General Nikolay Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, said the drone would be first test flown in late 2012, a revision of the initial 2015 timeframe.

In early April, Russia's defense ministry issued a technical specification for the development of the drone. The new aircraft is expected to have a modular structure and be able to carry various types of equipment and armament.

The Tranzas company will build the UAV's on-board electronics as well as its navigation and control systems, while the airframe, which will weigh about five tonnes, will be produced by the Kazan-based Sokol design bureau.

Russia's defense ministry sealed contracts with Tranzas and Sokol worth an estimated 3 billion rubles (USD 101.9 million) in October 2011.In late March, Russian Air Force commander-in-chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid that strike drones would enter service before 2020. He did not specify how many drones will be acquired.

The US has relied heavily on UAVs, including the Predator system, to carry out missile attacks on insurgents in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.

(Agencies)