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.
August 2021 - The Russian military has ordered a second version of the armed Kronstadt UAV.
April 2022 - The Russians have begun active strikes with their small fleet of Orion UCAVs in their invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
26.2 ft (8.00 m)
52.5 ft (16.00 m)
6.6 ft (2.00 m)
1,102 lb (500 kg)
2,205 lb (1,000 kg)
+1,102 lb (+500 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Kronstadt Orion-E production variant)
monoplane / mid-mounted / straight
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are mounted along the midway point of the sides of the fuselage.
The planform involves use of basic, straight mainplane members.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the Kronstadt Orion-E production variant)
1 x Conventional engine of unknown make, model and output power used to drive a two-bladed propeller unit at the rear of the fuselage in pusher arrangement.
Standard ISR mission equipment centered on various optics and sensor fits. Payload capacity of up to 200 kilograms.
Armed versions appearing with up to 200kg of stores across four external hardpoints.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 4
Note: Diagram above does not take into account inline hardpoints (mounting positions seated one-behind-the-other).
Orion - Base Series Name.
Orion-E - Export variant.
Orion-2 (Helios) - Planned model of 2023; dimensionally larger follow-on variant for HALE service.
Inokhodets (Orion) - Initial model; four hardpoints supporting LGBs up to 200kg payload weight.
Inokhodets-RU (Sirius) - Armed version for Russian military.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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