It’s official: Ukraine is testing rocket-assisted drones – Technology Org

The war in Ukraine proved that small drones are incredibly useful and important in modern warfare. They are being constantly used for reconnaissance, but also for kamikaze-style attacks. Now Ukraine has revealed that it is working on a drone, which takes off with help from a small rocket engine.

Rocket-assisted take-off of an RZ60 drone.  (screenshot)

Rocket-assisted take-off of an RZ60 drone. (screenshot)

The RZ60 drone, developed by the Kharkiv Aviation Institute and the private company Ramsai, was first handed over to the armed forces of Ukraine back in 2019. This drone was not fully developed before the start of the ongoing Russian invasion war.

Although it is intended that this platform can also serve as a combat drone, the first delivered examples of the RZ60 were intended for training purposes and served as flying targets.

The RZ60 is planned to replace the aging BP-2 and BP-3 drones. The manufacturer even envisioned a jet-powered version (even a twin-jet) of the RZ60, but these might be plans for a longer term.

Standard RZ60 uses a pusher propeller configuration, but there are jet-powered versions.

Standard RZ60 uses a pusher propeller configuration, but there are jet-powered versions. (Manufacturer’s picture)

Normally, the RZ60 is launched from a pneumatic catapult. This drone does not have a landing gear or some other launch mechanism – the pneumatic catapult simply propels the drone forward so that it can easily and quickly tear itself off the ground.

RZ60 (standard, with piston-propeller engine):

  • wingspan: 2.79 m;
  • Speed: up to 290 km/h;
  • Flight ceiling: up to 6 km;
  • Flight range: up to 300 km (tactical – up to 40 km);
  • Endurance: up to 1 hour;
  • Take-off weight: 60 kg;
  • Cargo capacity: 3 kg.
Drone RZ-60 on a pneumatic catapult.  Image credit: Defense Express

Drone RZ-60 on a pneumatic catapult. Image credit: Defense Express

It’s easy to predict that the cheap and small RZ60 would make a good kamikaze drone, but the makers envision it being able to land using a parachute.

On February 12, Serhij Pipko, an employee of the Chemistry Department of the Kyiv National Institute, published a video showing the RZ60 drone taking off with the help of a small rocket engine. Pipko is the head of the NAURocket project – an effort to develop small rocket engines.

The engineer explained that the small rocket engine simply helps the drone to take off, reduces the requirements for the take-off equipment, and enables multiple drones to be launched in quick succession.

Pneumatic catapults are great tools, but they have their drawbacks. They can be large and take a while to repressurize for a second launch. Small and relatively cheap rocket engines can help a flock of drones take off quickly and easily.

It’s not clear how far advanced this technology is, but the idea itself isn’t new. Rocket engines have been used for assisted takeoff for quite some time. If Ukraine has the ability to mass produce the RZ60 drones, they could quickly give the Russians a taste of their own medicine.

However, it is likely that RZ60 drones are just not ready to make any kind of difference for now. We haven’t seen any footage of these drones being used in action and it might be that there aren’t that many of them available for now.


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