A model of a previously unseen Russian unmanned air vehicle potentially capable of performing strike missions has been inadvertently revealed, with the regional republic of Tatarstan's government having posted images of the design online following a ministerial visit.
Pictures showing the Altius UAV were briefly published on the website after a visit to Tatarstan by Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu on 5 February. They were subsequently removed, but had already been reproduced by the business daily Vedomosti.
One image taken from the rear of the model shows a high-winged aircraft apparently powered by two turboprop engines, with the design also featuring a slab-sided rear fuselage and a V-shaped tail. Sokol also later posted a graphic of the type on its website showing its streamlined forward fuselage, but without a representative sensor payload or communications equipment depicted.
Tatarstan-based Sokol and St Petersburg-based Tranzas won a 1 billion rouble ($33 million) contract in 2011 to develop a 5t-class medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV provisionally named Altius and a 1t-class system called Inokhodyets (Wanderer).
Speaking at the time of the award, Tranzas vice-president Viktor Godunov told ARMS-TASS that the new systems would be competitive with their foreign counterparts, have "colossal range and endurance" and be capable of "all missions, including strike".
Sokol is responsible for aircraft construction and the supply of ground systems, with Tranzas developing control systems and electronics for the Altius and Inokhodyets. Both should make their flight debuts during 2014, and enter detailed testing in 2015, according to Russian media reports.