Defense journalist Steven Trimble caught the attention of aviation nerds and gun aficionados alike with the discovery of a patent for what appears to be a simple AK-47 drone filed by Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey last year. Trimble took to Twitter with his discovery, pointing out that the rifle in the image does look quite a bit like a barely modified AK platform.
Russian air defense manufacturer Almaz-Antey last year patented a small UAV built around what looks like a 7.62mm Kalashnikov rifle. pic.twitter.com/fq7TNGn7eW
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) March 12, 2019
Subsequent images of the drone in question, acquired from the patent filed with Russia’s Institute of Industrial Property, support the assertion that this drone was built to house an off-the-shelf-looking Kalashnikov 7.62x39mm assault rifle. It also seems to lack any obvious means of propulsion, begging a number of questions about how this low-tech UCAV ever hopes to get off the ground.
Two large stabilizing fins with bulbs jutting out from the front of the flying wing design look like they could potentially house electric engines. This could power propellers that would stick out of said bulbs, but nothing in the patent sheds any light on such a possibility. It does seem especially unlikely that this armed drone would be designed for use as a glider.
The idea of building a simple airframe around a powerful weapon system isn’t at all unheard of. According to legend, the close air support-providing A-10 Thunderbolt II was effectively built around its incredible GAU-8 Avenger 30mm hydraulically driven cannon. This effort, though, seems more akin to the flying grenade launcher Belarus unveiled a few years ago…which is really just a rocket-propelled grenade launcher outfitted with a few rotors for lift.
Like that low-tech UCAV, this flying AK-47 likely wouldn’t offer any meaningful tactical use other than making for one hell of a crazy-looking distraction. The patent doesn’t show where a camera or a targeting apparatus would be mounted on the AK-47 drone, and because it relies on a winged shape rather than helicopter-like rotors to fly, it would need to continue moving in a forward direction at all times. With no ability to reload, this AK-47 drone—if equipped with a standard magazine—could offer only 30 rounds of 7.62, or approximately three seconds of sustained fire, and absolutely no means of aiming that burst.
Any target large enough to hit (i.e. heavy vehicles, buildings) would suffer little from the barrage of small-arms fire, and any target small enough to wound or kill (individual soldiers) would be nearly impossible to effectively engage.
In other words, these pictures may be interesting to look at, but it seems unlikely that Almaz-Antey will put such a foolish platform into production. Then again, with other defense initiatives like nuclear-powered cruise missiles that don’t work, robotic infantry drones that don’t work, and stealth aircraft that lack stealth, maybe these useless drones could find their way onto the Kremlin’s wish list after all.