Armed Forces of the Eastern European country of Belarus have recently been experimenting with arming commercial quad-copter drones with disposable RPG-26 launchers in an effort to use the drones as airborne weapons that could fire a shot at an armored vehicle from the air. This would also allow the drone operator to be behind safety while flying and firing the weaponized drone. A video that depicts the launcher in use at an exposition of the Belarusian Armed Forces was posted in May of this year.
Due to the crude appearance and construction, the drone itself appears to be of indigenous manufacture and not an off the shelf purchase from outside the country. The RPG-26 is mounted between the four rotating propellers and landing struts. It doesn’t elevate or traverse while in its cradle so the position of the entire drone has to be manually adjusted in order to fire the disposable rocket launcher. Target acquisition is through a video camera that is mounted on the front of the drone, just underneath the muzzle of the launcher. We assume at this camera is mounted on a gyroscope and has the ability to swivel in order to enhance situational awareness.
The RPG-26 replaced the RPG-22, which was preceded by the RPG-18 in Soviet service (circa 1980s). All of which are essentially Soviet copies of the U.S. M72 LAW. Pairing the disposable launcher with drones appears to be a wise tactic for two reasons. First, it could cut down on losses because if the drone is shot down, the launcher was disposable anyways. There won’t be a tactical necessity for it to come back to a homing station to be reloaded, or for a team in the field to go recover it. Second, as this anti-armor technology becomes more outdated (adopted in 1985), mounting these launchers to drones solves problems are encountered in employing it in a conventional Belorusian force today.
Because it is outdated, achieving a successful hit with these requires different angles of attack on modern vehicles that could more easily defeat an RPG-26 (around 500mm of penetration) when armed with personal. But a drone can outdo any infantryman when it comes to maneuvering around a vehicle for speed.
Overall length: 770 mm
Weight: 2.9 kg complete
Effective range: up to 170 m
Armour penetration: ~ 440 mm