Russia’s Orion drone with proven air-to-air capabilities

Orion drone

Orion-E medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned surveillance aircraft system

The Kronshtadt Orion is a family of Russian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by the Kronstadt Group. There are several variants of the drone, both for Russia’s domestic and export markets. Orion-E is a long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle intended for day-and-night aerial ISR missions in a wide range of climate zones.

Russia’s Orion drone with air-to-air capabilities is an advanced piece of military technology that has revolutionized the way aerial combat is conducted. With an impressive range of up to 250 kilometres, the drone offers pilots an unprecedented level of flexibility and control. In addition to its impressive range, the Orion-E also features a range of sensors and sophisticated targeting systems, giving it the ability to identify and track enemy aircraft with ease. Its advanced avionics allow it to manoeuvre and position itself in the most advantageous positions for combat operations.

The Orion is also equipped with an impressive array of offensive and defensive capabilities. Its impressive array of missiles and bombs can be launched with devastating effect, while its powerful Electronic Counter Measures (ECMs) can be used to disrupt enemy communications and navigation systems. Furthermore, the drone’s onboard Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) system allows it to detect and identify targets quickly and accurately. With an impressive array of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, the Orion-E is a formidable force in the sky.

The Orion is considered one of Russia’s best strike drones, and the state-owned Russia-1 TV channel previously released a 12-minutes footage of the drone’s combat use in Syria, and the video shows the drone striking an unmanned helicopter and carrying four small weapons on underwing pylons, these areas have been deliberately obscured.

Orion UAV capabilities

In the report, it was mentioned that the Orion can carry laser-guided bombs and other precision weapons. These were described as “still classified,” before an Orion was shown taking off with a weapon underneath, intentionally obscured. Regarding Orion’s combat performance in Syria, Sergei Tyugay, deputy head of unmanned aviation within the Russian Aerospace Forces high command, said that it had shown itself to be “not just successful, but survivable.”

Likewise, in December 2020, it was reported that the Orion — also known by the project name Inokhodets, meaning pacer in Russian — had fired “small-sized guided missiles” for the first time. 

The Orion also features a range of advanced navigational systems, allowing it to fly in any weather conditions. Its advanced flight control systems also allow it to maintain a stable and precise course, even in the face of strong winds and turbulence. Additionally, the drone’s intelligent autopilot system can take over in the event of an emergency, allowing it to land safely and securely.

The Orion features a turret with electro-optical and infrared cameras, as well as a laser target designator for launching guided munitions against ground targets. The footage shows a pilot in the ground control station using the drone’s sensors to first identify the target before initiating a missile attack.

The UAV is also capable of carrying out visual, radar, or radio-technical reconnaissance during missions in designated areas for an extended period of time. The Orion can operate for up to 24 hours. The drone’s arsenal includes the KAB-20 and KAB-50 adjustable aerial bombs, the UPAB-50 guided gliding aerial bomb, and the X-50 guided missile. 

The Orion-E also incorporates cutting-edge communications and data systems, allowing it to quickly download information from its operators and transmit it to other aircraft or ground units. This allows it to maintain a constant stream of information, ensuring that its pilots are always aware of their surroundings and the enemy’s movements. Additionally, the drone is equipped with an impressive array of cameras and imaging systems, giving pilots detailed images of their environment.

The export variant of the drone is called ‘Orion-E’. The range of applications of Orion-E can be expanded due to satellite communications, according to Sergey Bogatikov, the head of the Kronstadt company. It could be controlled remotely across a 250-kilometre radio channel.

Orion UAV air-to-air capability

The Orion-E is an advanced piece of military technology that has revolutionized the way aerial combat is conducted. With its impressive range, sensors, targeting systems, and offensive and defensive capabilities, it is capable of carrying out a wide range of missions with ease and precision. Furthermore, its advanced navigational and communications systems give it the capability to monitor and control its environment with unparalleled accuracy.

The ability to launch air-to-air missiles, or dual-role weaponry capable of hitting targets both in the air and on the ground, signifies that Russia intends to counter high-performance drones with its Orion. That said, Moscow’s Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov, the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, declared that the Orion drone is capable of eliminating the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 and other UAVs. In Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan-Armenia, the TB2 was proven effective against the Russian air defence systems. 

Changing the way wars are fought

Undeniably, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have changed the way wars are fought, which has prompted a high demand for drone technology among African countries and the rest of the world to tackle the threats posed to their security by insurgents and militant groups. 

Additionally, drones are also proving to be cost-effective tools for military and counter-insurgency operations, as well as peacekeeping and peacemaking missions., and are playing increasingly visible roles across Africa.

The Orion-E MALE drone in the reconnaissance/strike configuration was for the first time unveiled at a major international expo and for the first time in the Middle East at the Dubai Airshow 2021 on 14th November.

The Orion-E is intended for performing missions in a wide range of climate zones: the destruction of small stationary, mobile and moving objects, military equipment and enemy manpower; air patrolling of designated areas; maritime border guard and patrol; evaluation of the impact of a strike; topographical survey; terrain mapping in the radar range; detection of surface and above-water radiocontrast targets; etc.

The maximum take-off weight is 1.1 t, and the maximum payload weight is 250 kg. The maximum flight duration is 30 hours, and the speed is up to 200 km/h. From one ground control point up to 4 UAVs can be simultaneously controlled, says the official presentation. The Orion-E is equipped with replaceable payloads based on modular principle, including the sensor payloads for the ISR mission.

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