The grim war in Ukraine has become the current testing ground for cutting-edge military technology and weaponry for both Western allies and Russia alike. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, in particular, have taken center stage and have initiated a new sort of competition among superpowers.

As the United States continues to aid the Ukrainian troops with dozens of tactical drones to defend positions, Russia has also been in collaboration with Iran to acquire the latter’s lethal drones.

Moscow likewise has been working on a long-range transport drone, its final ground tests video making rounds online after Russian news agency RIA Novosti published the report on Tuesday, March 14.

A Sneak Peek of the Russian TrAMP

In the footage, the first prototype of the TRansport Aviation Multifunctional Platform (or “TrAMP”) can be seen taxiing, checking, and debugging its control systems and mechanisms, as well as performing a series of runs without having to depart the runway.

By the looks of it, the Russian drone features a classic aircraft exterior design outfitted with a high-positioned straight wing and a two-keel V-tail. Meanwhile, the engine is in front of the fuselage, while the 2650-liter cargo compartment takes the middle section that has undergone “a significant, but smooth expansion,” according to RIA Novosti.

It added that on both sides of the cargo compartment, there are drop-down doors, which, when opened, would form a large opening to accommodate oversized cargo. Niches are also provided behind these doors for retractable rear landing gear. This landing gear allows operators to take off and land on short, poorly prepared sites.

Moreover, the drone has a reported cruising speed of about 195 km/h and a cruising ceiling of 3,000 meters (9,843 ft).

“TrAMP is entering the final stage of preparation for test flights – a regular engine with a large three-blade propeller will be installed on the aircraft in the near future, standard landing gear instead of technological ones used for ground taxiing,” an informed source told RIA Novosti. “The drone is completing the ground test program – dozens of taxi runds have already been completed, the control system has been worked out onboard.”

The unnamed source also confirmed the TrAMP drone would most likely make its maiden flight by April, a little later than the originally planned first flight, due to specialist shortage. He explained that the developers required specific personnel to execute the flight.

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Information on the latest Russian drone first surfaced last month, making headlines on an apparent transport UAV capable of flying long distances while carrying heavy cargo.

Developers said that the technology could serve multi-role, both military and civilian purposes, all thanks to its large cargo compartment. Military troops can load large items with a parachute, which the drone would then drop through the hatch doors below. Likewise, it can be employed in surveillance operations or as an aerial bomber. As the drone is fitted with a modular design, operators can quickly replace its parts, including its wings, engine, and landing gear, during crunch time.

Meanwhile, civilians can employ the transport drone to monitor extensive landscapes and/or the agriculture sector since specific equipment like radar, optical, and cartographic sensors can be fitted on the aircraft.

Nevertheless, with the ongoing conflict, many speculate that the TrAMP drone will definitely make an appearance in Ukraine, perhaps as supply transport, recon, or bomber.

Drones Play a Vital Role in Modern Conflict

Sergey Chemezov, director of the Rostec state corporation, announced in January that the company was developing reconnaissance and strike choppers capable of swarming enemy troops, in partnership with Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

“Small tactical copters are also being created that are capable of conducting reconnaissance, automatically detecting the enemy, and directing artillery. Can drop grenades and strike as part of a swarm,” said Chemezov via RIA News.

Drones, as witnessed on the Ukrainian troops’ side, could also be a game-changer for the Russian army in its quest to exert its dominance over Kyiv.

Russia broke a weeks-long stalemate in late February by launching a new wave of Iranian-supplied drones in Ukraine. According to reports, Ukrainian troops shot down 11 of 14 Shahed drones, including all nine attempted bombing strikes in Kyiv. Unfortunately, the remaining three lethal drones hit targets in the central city of Khmelnytskyi, causing explosions that killed two rescue workers and injured three others.

Nonetheless, the frequency of drone assaults from the Russian army has significantly declined so far, this year perhaps taking an indefinite pause after its failed attempt to destroy Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure in October through showers of bombings until early January. According to some intelligence officials, Russia’s cruise missile stockpiles are dwindling, which might be one of the reasons why Moscow has increasingly turned to acquiring and using considerably cheaper Iranian drones.