Some nations are developing swarms of small drones for combat, spying on warzones as well as dropping payloads.
But Russia has reportedly set its sights on a supersonic behemoth, which could strike terror into the hearts of any enemies in the future.
Called the PAK TA, the conceptual aircraft is designed to carry troops and tanks at supersonic speeds and could take to the skies as early as 2024.
But some commentators say it’s unlikely that the plans will get off the ground.
The concept comes from the country’s Military-Industrial Commission, RT reported, and the design, drawn by a technical manager at Volga-Dnepr Group, shows a futuristic, plane with a cavernous fuselage complete with a large opening and jagged wings.
The plane is an unusual shape because it is intended to carry up to eight Armata tanks – which have yet to be built – complete with ammunition to anywhere in the world at supersonic speeds.
It would fly at speeds of over 1,200mph (2,000km/h) despite carrying a payload of up to 200 tonnes (200,000kg) with a range of more than 4,350 miles (7,000km).
The speed is comparable to that of a light fighter jet, leading some commentators to brand the plans improbable and more of a flight of fancy than a serious plan.
The top speed of the US’ largest transport plane – the C-5M Super Galaxy – is 518mph (834km/h) PopSci reported.
The design, imagined by an employee of a Russian aircraft company, also hints that if the plane were to be built, it would be partially powered by electricity.
While batteries can power small electric planes, the technology is unlikely to develop quickly enough to drive a huge supersonic craft, like the PAK TA.
The programme envisages that 80 of these new aircraft would be built by 2024, enabling Russia to be able to drop a ready-made army wherever it may be needed in under seven hours, Expert Online reported.
The vehicles could load cargo autonomously and be able to airdrop tanks and men onto tricky terrain.
‘With the development of a network of military bases in the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which is expected to be completed during the same time period [by 2024], it’s obvious that Russia is preparing for a full-scale military confrontation of transcontinental scale,’ Expert Online reported.
The PAK TA project is thought to have been underway for several years and is designed to replace the current generation of air freighters – Ilyushin and Antonov cargo aircraft.
The only operating aircraft that can carry a comparable amount of weight is the Antonov An-225 Mriya, which is a one-off and is built for the Soviet Buran space shuttle programme.