In the end of February 2021, the Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu has visited the JSC Kronstadt company, a specialized military manufacturer being the leader of Russian unmanned aircraft industry. This visit was broadly commented by press services of the Russian MoD and the company itself, at this opportunity disclosing a few interesting facts related to current and future operational use of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) in the Russian armed forces.
According to the manufacturer, the Russian MoD is putting pressure on significant increase of UCAVs delivery. This matter was also raised during Shoigu´s visit in JSC Kronstad – as a result, Sergei Bogatikov, the General Director of JSC Kronstadt, promised that six or seven Орион (Orion) sets would be delivered yet in 2021, with each set including three UCAVs and two commanding points.
On the grounds of increased demand from the MoD, the leading Russian UAV manufacturer is going to build a dedicated production facility, focused only on government military procurements.
Although the ´Orion´ is currently the most-demand UAV being manufactured by JSC Kronstadt, the company is also developing several other unmanned systems that were presented to MoD authorities during their official visit in February. They included Иноходец (English: ambling gait) long-endurance UAV with ability to perform reconnaissance and ground-strike missions, Гром (Thunder) high-speed attack UAV and Гелиос-РЛД (Helios-RLD) radar surveillance unmanned aircraft.
The development of ´Orion´ UCAV system was launched in 2011 and the first prototype performed its maiden flight in 2016. The final version of the aircraft was presented to general public during MAKS-2019 trade fair and the first set become operational in November the same year. At that time the manufacturer declared the production capability of approximately 30 airframes per year.
´Orion´ UCAV system was used in active combat in Syria, according to the official sources there were 40 missions performed there, including 17 attacks on the ground targets. Operational use of ´Orion´ was widely advertised by the Russian MoD and media – video materials from Syria were broadcasted by national television and ´Orion´ also appeared in official MoD calendar for 2021.
The unmanned vehicle being a part of ´Orion´ set, is able to stay in the air for up to 24 hours, has an active range of 250-300 kilometres, ceiling of 7,500 metres and can fly up to 200 kph. Such characteristic places it in MALE category of UAV, similarly to IAI Heron, MQ-1C Grey Eagle or Bayraktar TB2.
The Russian UCAV can carry up to 200 kg of armament, including Ch-50 rockets, KAB-20 and KAB-50 bombs specially designed for UAVs, and also a standard aviation bombs and rockets.
Cover photo and photo no. 2 by JSC Kronstadt (press materials) and © JSC Kronstadt. MoD press information (Министерство обороны Российской Федерации) were used, under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.