Unlike the United States, Russia has struggled to find standardization and a growing reliance on Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). There have been several notable concepts put forth - including VTOL-capable (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) models - but few have materialized into viable in-service solutions for its Air Force, Army and Navy services. Kronstadt intends to change all that with their proposed Predator-class "Orion-E" MALE UAV displayed at MAKS 2017.
Little concrete information is available on the Orion-E as of this writing (2017) but a flyable prototype is known to be in existence. Construction is said to incorporate composites for robustness and as a weight-savings measure and specifications of the system include an overall length of 26.25 feet with a wingspan measuring over 50 feet. Its maximum payload capability is up to 440 pounds.
Outwardly the Orion-E utilizes a long, slender fuselage containing the mission equipment, avionics suite, fuel stores and engine installation. An optics system is mounted in blister form under the aircraft's "chin". The engine appears to drive a multi-bladed propeller at the rear of the fuselage in a "pusher" arrangement (as in the Predator series). The wing mainplanes, set amidships, are straight in their design and feature clipped tips. Instead of a traditional tail unit, a V-style arrangement is used (as in the Reaper UAV) to dually serve as vertical and horizontal stabilizers. The wheeled tricycle undercarriage appears to be fixed during flight (non-retracting).
Beyond its attempt to secure Russian military interest, Kronstadt will also eye its Orion-E for the export market with the help of a second party. it is assumed that the Orion E will be an unarmed product suitable for Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) over-battlefield roles.
July 2014 - The Orion UAV is known to have taken part in the Russian take over of Crimea, the systems being operated by the first Russian military units to have received the type for operational service. These Orions were used in the airborne reconnaissance role.
October 2019 - Kronstadt has formally begun serial production of its Orion UAV. Formal service entry is expected soon, perhaps in 2020.
August 2020 - The Orion MALE UAV was displayed with its supported air-launched weapons at Army2020 in Russia.
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