The MALE-class (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) drone Orion has started arriving for experimental combat operation in Russia’s Aerospace Force after its tests with armaments in Syria, a source in the defense industry told TASS on Friday.
“The Orion drone in its attack configuration can carry up to four missiles, which it successfully test-fired in Syria. The drone has started arriving for Russian troops for its operational evaluation, after which the command will make a decision on launching it into serial production and accepting it for service,” the source said.
Orion Chief Designer Nikolai Dolzhenkov told TASS in reply to its request to comment on the source’s information about the drone’s experimental combat operation that “it is still early to specify these aspects.” ‘We have trials at their final stage and it would be better to talk about that when we finally complete them and we are going to do this in the immediate future,” he added.
The chief designer declined to comment on the drone’s employment with its armament in Syria.
As Editor-in-Chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland journal Viktor Murakhovsky explained to TASS, the drone Orion “was in Syria in its reconnaissance and attack configuration.” “It was there; moreover, there were more than one of them there and for quite a long time but I can’t say whether it [the drone] delivered strikes,” Murakhovsky specified.
The expert noted that the Orion had completed its state trials with a small number of critical remarks. “Operational documentation is being developed,” he added.
“The Aerospace Force already has proposals on setting up units for employing long-range and long-endurance heavy attack drones. So far, it seems that these units will be mixed to comprise both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles,” the expert said.
Orion attack drone
The Orion is a medium altitude, long endurance drone with a maximum takeoff weight of 1 tonne and a maximum payload of 200 kg. The drone has a service ceiling of 7.5 km and its maximum flight duration with the standard payload is 24 hours. The drone can develop a speed of up 200 km/h. The drone is being developed by Kronshtadt Group.
At the Army-2018 international arms show, Kronshtadt Group demonstrated a drone armament control system and a munition prototype of its own development with a weight of up to 50 kg that can be outfitted with various warheads.
Another TASS source in the defense industry said in February 2019 that back in 2018 the Orion drone had been tested for employing air bombs but did not specify the munition types. According to the source, the drone was used in Syria but without employing its armament.
At the MAKS-2019 air show, Kronshtadt Group Chief Designer Dolzhenkov told TASS that the Orion drone was at the final stage of its trials and that the Defense Ministry of Russia would get one such unmanned aerial vehicle before the end of the year.