|A pair of Laika Drones hovering at low altitude.|
|Unit Type||Aerial Drone|
|Production Building||Drone Kennel|
|Secondary Ability||Low Altitude/High Altitude|
(Hovers above the ground, detects stealth/Flies in the air, stealthed)
- - Laika Drone
- Watch Dog: The Laika Drone, unlike its other compatriots, can fly - in fact, so high up that it is almost impossible for anything to actually see them. With contact established by constant beeping, the Laika can freely move anywhere on the battlefield in stealth mode, watching what goes on below and spreading its sight back to the base.
- Sight Hound: If needed, the Laika can readjust engines and float like a rock down to earth. Hovering above the ground, it is fully vulnerable to any kind of attack, but its monitoring and video equipment allows it to easily pick out nearby stealthed enemies.
- Not in the House: Again, unlike other drones, Laikas have no means to enter vehicles or otherwise interact with them - they are thus unable to provide the same versatility as other drones in these regards.
- Only a Puppy: Much like other drones, Laikas are incapable of gaining veterancy, and do not have weapons of any sort in the first place - as such, they are completely incapable of getting heroic upgrades.
Even after the unfortunate failure of the third Sputnik probe in 1955, the Soviet Union never lost track of their midst of their mission to spread communism to the stars. Scaling back on their ambitious plans for the Sputnik probes as miniature space stations hovering in orbit and beyond, they instead began to work on other projects including the Soyuz rockets, the Mir space station, and more recently the Vostok II spaceships. But while these projects may have been responsible for ending the Sputnik probe's reign of future Soviet space advances, they did not kill off its usefulness. From 1953 to 1960, Sputnik-class satellites were launched into orbit en masse, first by specialized ground-to-space launch missions and then eventually scattered out at large by Soviet cosmonauts. They served in a multitude of roles for the ever-cautious Soviets - detection and signal transmitting, monitoring of space and nearby terrestrial and solar bodies, figurative treasure chests filled with materials usable by cosmonauts when working on other orbital projects and stations, even on a few occasions emergency 'rescue capsules' capable of holding a cosmonaut with sufficiently prepared food and water supplies in case of an accident, along with a monitor to signal location. While the space around Earth grew crowded with Soviet, Allied, and Syndicate space stations and orbital docks, hundreds of Sputniks soon filled the night skies, and the sight of satellites passing by overhead soon became a nightly occurence for night-time viewers. They were crude, and servicable...but, for over five years, they did their job.
By 1960, however, the Sputnik satellites were starting to show their age. Many of them had strayed out of position or were irretrievably lost over the years, and many of those that had remained in postion had through collisions with other objects, fellow Sputniks, or simple negligence were in poor condition. While the Soviets were capable of simply collecting such 'space junk' in their myriad space stations, the question came of what to do about future satellites. They could not simply keep launching new Sputniks into orbit - with the advances in space technology, they were already showing their age. Though a variety of alternate suggestions were put forth, the one that ultimately was seen as most promising came from the Experimental Ministry of Science - why not simply update the Sputnik's design with new materials, implant basic drone technology, and then use handler cosmonauts on the space stations to guide them? The go-ahead was given, and soon the Laika Drone, named after the first War Bear put into orbit, was being produced from the halls of Omsk. Needing less technical work than the Terror Drone or other variations due to its relatively simple tasks, such drones were first tested in late 1961, given to the crew of the Mir station.
The programming of the Laika Drones is deceptively simple - most are little more than eager puppies in terms of 'personality', being driven to follow orders from their 'masters' and more or less patiently wait at ordered locations. Instead, most of their technicial magnificence comes in their visual, auditory, chemical, and assorted other sensors placed into the drone. When linked up via a monitoring 'collar' to a control booth set up in a space station, the Laika will constantly broadcast all it sees, hears, and senses, allowing human cosmonauts to feed that information back to Ground Control or further relay orders to the Laikas. Though this limits Laika Drones to more or less operating only within a certain radius of Soviet spacecraft, the Soviets are only too happy to attest to the fact that they are everywhere in space anyways, or at least everywhere important.
However, the Laika Drone would never find itself involved in any kind of combat action until 1968, when by accident three Laika Drones were shot down in an Orbital Drop in Germany instead of old space junk. Never designed for actual battling, much less heated combat on the ground or anything besides surveillance, the Laika drones used their survival mechanisms as well as their propulsion engines to prevent them from crashing into the ground, and returned to the nearest known Soviet presence - the base that had ordered the orbital dump in the first place. At first surprised by the sudden appearance of the Laikas, the Soviet commander in charge of the base made the best of the situation - and coaxed the drones into accepting the base as its new 'master', reconfiguring the drones to send data to the computers that made up the basement and first floor of the Conyard. This would result in a surprising discovery - while they were useless when confronted by an enemy, the Laika Drones could be used to keep watch on the battlefield, their superior sensors being able to detect the heat signatures of Mirages, incoming whir of Liberators, and even the cologne of a Spy that was operating inside the Soviet camp. And with their engines, the Soviet commander could even order one into the air, letting it fly high into the sky to report on Allied movements with near-perfect black and white LOMO filming equipment, its small size and height allowing it to remain unseen while it dutifully reported back everything it saw.
This situation would cause a shift after the war in the way Laika Drones were used. While still very much a staple of the cosmonauts, their potential for ground-based combat detection and reconnaissance was seen as having great potential for the revisioned military under Premier Davidova, especially with the advances in sudden warfare perfected by the Allies. Finally, in May of 1969, Soviet Commanders were approved to carry Laika Drones (in special harnesses, of course) with them wherever Drone Kennels were built.