Copy against original: what is our Orion drone inferior to the American original with
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Copy against original: what is our Orion drone inferior to the American original with

30 October , 16:35Technology
So far, Russian military designers have failed to create a full-fledged strike drone, and at least approach America or China in this type of weapon.

Victor Kuzovkov

Probably, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the topic of Russian unmanned aircraft is attracting a lot of attention from both specialists and ordinary people. It just so happened that the rapid development of this direction fell on a not most prosperous period for us - the nineties, zero... We sat too long at the start and it is not surprising that we lagged behind most of the recognized leaders in the field of unmanned aircraft. Add to this the long-standing problem of microelectronics, which tormented Russian designers literally from the moment this very electronics appeared, and the traditional lag in the field of aircraft engine building, which in the field of light engines of any type was even more egregious simply due to the low priority of this direction. In general, we have long been looking with great concern at what is happening in the UAV field, and there is nothing surprising in this ...

Now, when everyone is hearing another exacerbation in Karabakh and the role that drones play in it, our interest has become even more intense. A big and unpleasant discovery was that our short-range anti-aircraft weapons were, to put it mildly, not very ready to counter even the most advanced Israeli and Turkish drones. A reasonable question, and what awaits us in the event of a confrontation with really advanced powers, looks not at all rhetorical and requires an accurate answer, because our military is now present in Syria and Libya, where the risk of a civil war escalating into a clash with other interested powers is present constantly.

So really, is there any encouraging news in the field of creating Russian unmanned aerial vehicles? Can we count on the early appearance of truly modern reconnaissance and strike systems in the troops? Or is it still limited to the licensed production of not the newest (albeit not bad at all) Israeli UAV Searcher 2, which we call the Outpost?

Just the other day, on the NTV channel, in the "Smotr" program, they showed a detailed story about the work of the Kronstadt design bureau and one of its new products, the Orion UAV. The transfer caused a wide response in the media, especially since during the period of a real famine, such information was not about another promising development, but about a complex that passed all stages of tests (including in Syria) and began to enter the troops. NTV journalists did not spare good words about the new Russian drone, noting its modernity, a wide range of tasks to be solved, and some other advantages and strengths. But we, having digested the first joy, will try to look at Orion more objectively and understand what we really got ...

First of all, the external resemblance of Orion to the American MQ-9 Reaper UAV is striking. The similarity is not as strong as that of the Chinese drone CH-5 ("Cai hong 5", or "Rainbow-5"), but still quite tangible. No, let's not make an indignant face and accuse someone of plagiarism - if a potential adversary has something good, then why not copy it? Moreover, the laws of aerodynamics are indeed the same for everyone, and the optimal forms of aircraft were copied by everyone, always and by everyone.

The point is different, namely that it is not entirely clear why only the form was copied (partially)? The Chinese did not stand on ceremony and made their "Rainbow" almost a complete copy of a very successful American car. As a result, they received a much larger take-off weight, and several times larger payload, and good characteristics of altitude and flight speed. No, in fairness, the "Chinese" turned out to be worse than the "Reaper", especially in terms of such parameters as flight altitude. Only 10 km versus 15 km for an American, and yet it is clear there that we are dealing with a full-fledged strike drone capable of solving, for example, such specific tasks as the destruction of short-range air defense systems. Having a sufficient flight altitude, the CH-5 can use the same tactics used by the Turkish Bayraktar UAVs, destroying the Osa and Strela-10 complexes in Karabakh - to climb above the range of air defense systems and simply shoot them from a safe height...

According to information available in open sources, the practical ceiling of the new Russian drone is 7,500 meters, and it moves at a cruising speed of about 200 km / h. Given the fact that the threshold of reach of many modern short-range air defense systems fluctuates in the range of 8-10 kilometers, the indicated flight altitude, to put it mildly, is not enough. And it certainly does not compare with the 15-kilometer ceiling of an American attack drone. But here, in general, everything is natural - we have not yet been able to "catch up and overtake" the Americans in the field of small aircraft engine building, and it is quite expected that even the much lighter models of Russian drones have a significantly worse altitude indicator...

The payload that our Orion is capable of taking on board is approximately 200 kilograms. From this figure it is necessary to subtract the mass of radio-electronic equipment, optical-electronic station, communication and control equipment. Very little remains - according to the developer, the complex can carry a pair of guided missiles and a small aerial bomb weighing 50 kilograms, for which it has three external suspension assemblies - two underwing and one under the fuselage. Of course, this is much better than nothing. And yet we admit that in order to be rightfully called "shock", our new product lacks a little shock power.

The weapons that can be placed on the Orion UAV will only be enough for a single use in the "free hunt" mode. That is, if the operator of the complex during a reconnaissance flight discovered, for example, a cluster of militants, then it can be destroyed without resorting to the help of manned aircraft. Of course, this is not bad at all. But…

Even in the export version, the complex can stay in the air for up to 24 hours. If we assume that he patrols an area of sufficiently active hostilities, he may have a need for weapons many times in a day. If the UAV is planted every couple of hours in order to suspend new missiles and bombs, the meaning of the flight duration is somehow slightly lost, won't you agree?

If you carefully look at the earlier information about the new Russian complex, you will hardly find anywhere mention of the possibility of conducting shock operations. That is, it is very likely that the new UAV was originally designed as a reconnaissance one, and shock functions were given to it literally at the last moment, providing for a certain set of weapons in a very narrow mass and size framework.

Probably, this is a bit like the grumbling of some eternally disgruntled citizen to whom everything is always “wrong”. I apologize if this impression really happened. No, of course, the author is very pleased with the appearance in our army of such a tool as a good patrol drone with great autonomy. The presence of even minimal percussion functions in it can be considered a small, but on the whole a pleasant and useful bonus. All the author wants is to slightly lower the degree of joyful hysteria. No, we didn't get a full-fledged shock drone. No, we didn't manage to catch up and overtake America (or at least China) even close. No, we have not increased the tool for a serious local conflict in which the enemy can use sufficiently modern air defense systems. But in a low-intensity conflict of the type, for example, a Chechen one, he can really be very useful and thus find his niche.

In general, this is not yet a reason for pride, but already a good patch on our leaky military caftan...

Much more interesting in the above-mentioned plot were the shots where other promising developments were casually mentioned. In particular, the idea of an unmanned aircraft for long-range radar detection "Helios" looks very promising. Just imagine a drone weighing 4-5 tons, controlled from the ground, perhaps even from a distance of several thousand kilometers, capable of at least partially replacing such objects weighing under 200 tons as the A-50 AWACS complex or the A-100 promising AWACS aircraft " Premier ". At the same time, according to the developer, he will be able to spend many times more time in the air than his manned counterpart.

At a minimum, it will be significantly cheaper both at the production stage and at the operational stage. And if it is possible to provide also comparable characteristics in terms of the detection range of air targets, especially low-flying targets, the benefits from the implementation of this project will be colossal. No, the new drone will probably not be able to completely replace the A-100 complex, because it is also an air control center, a real command post in the air, capable of coordinating the actions of fighter aircraft and ground air defense systems on a huge front, several hundred kilometers away. But this may not be needed - just drones can unload the A-50 or A-100 fleet, closing the least critical directions, and manned giants will patrol where there is an urgent need for them. In any case, the state will be able to provide a much larger area of continuous radar coverage for the same money, and this, given the vast Russian expanses, is a critical issue.

The potential appearance of the Sirius UAV, which is the logical continuation of the Orion UAV, is also encouraging. The payload weight of the new vehicle will already be 450-500 kilograms, and this implies an expansion of both the range of weapons used and a wider range of targets, if necessary. True, to achieve the required indicators, a two-engine scheme was already chosen - alas, a solution to the problem of engines and real import substitution in this area is not expected in the foreseeable future.

One way or another, today we are still left without a full-fledged strike drone of the average, if I may say so, weight category. Probably, within the framework of possible challenges for Russia, this direction does not seem to be the most urgent. Indeed, now it seems more reasonable to send funds to the S-70 Okhotnik UAV, for example, which can rightfully be called a drone adapted for a “big war”. The tasks it solves, namely the suppression of long-range air defense systems, the destruction of important targets in the operational depth of the enemy, the cover of manned aircraft from attacks from the ground, etc., look much more in demand in the event of a confrontation with some serious enemy. Perhaps, if necessary, he will be able to take on some of the functions of a mid-level strike drone.

And yet, we must not forget that so-called low-intensity conflicts occur in the world almost constantly. And it is in them, oddly enough, that important, albeit often local, geopolitical problems are solved. Therefore, we must have the tools to participate in such conflicts. All the tools!

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