The presence of the Orion-E MALE UAV in the Rosoboronexport booth at the Dubai Air Show marks a number of premieres. Designed by Kronshtadt, the high-tech company with headquarters in Moscow, its production will soon be transferred into the new plant in Dubna, some 100 km north of Moscow, which should soon be ready.
“Her at Dubai Airshow 2021 we are bringing the latest version of our Orion-E UCAV,” a Kronshtadt representative tells EDR On-Line, the “C” letter being added to UAV as the aircraft is shown in its weaponised version. “We are exhibiting the Orion-E MALE drone in the reconnaissance/strike configuration, which beside the armament is also equipped with the satellite communication system that greatly increase its operational range, and allows controlling the UCAV almost from any point of the world.”
The Orion-E has a maximum take-off weight of 1,150 kg, 250 kg being of payload, and is powered by a 115 hp engine that drives a two-blade pushing propeller, the Orion-E MALE featuring a V-tail. The airframe has a centreline pylon and one underwing pylon per side; According to information released by Kronshtadt it can carry a 100 kg aerial bomb under the centreline pylon, other armament configuration being six 20 kg bombs, two per each pylon, four antitank missiles, two per underwing pylon, for a total of 100 kg, three 50 kg guided bombs one per pylon, or two 50 kg guided missiles one per each underwing pylon.
“We at Kronshtadt are constantly working on the integration of the new types of armament for the Russian Ministry of Defence, one of the latest additions being the 9K121 Vikhr laser beam-riding anti-tank missile. The Orion-E can currently be armed with a number of weapons for which export permission has been granted, ranging from the OFAB-100-120 unguided aerial bomb, to the KAB-50 air bomb that can be fitted with TV, laser or satellite guidance systems, and the aforementioned Vikhr anti-tank missile,” the company source explains. As for the 20 kg bombs mentioned in the brochure, these should be the KAB-20, which can be fitted with a satellite or a laser guidance system. In the early future the Orion-E should carry out tests with the modernised version of the antitank missile currently in use, the 9A1472 Vikhr-M.
Asked about the integration of other weapons, EDR On-Line was told “other types of weapons may be offered for export on the Orion-E, after obtaining permission from the Russian Ministry of Defence. However the company is ready to integrate on the UCAV any armament the customer desires, providing it falls within size and weight limits.” As an example the Orion-E was exhibited at the MILEX 2021 exhibition in Minsk, fitted with a payload manufactured in the Republic of Belarus.
As said, the presence of the Orion-E MALE UAV in its more evolved reconnaissance/strike version marks a series of firsts; “it is the first ever exhibition of that Russian combat UAV at the major international airshow, it is the first time we show Orion-E weapons abroad, and it is the first presentation of our UCAV in the Middle East,” the source told us.
According to Kronshtadt the current version is far from marking the end of the system development. “The optimal aerodynamic design of this UCAV ensures effective performance, and its long service life will allow us to further develop its payload and equip it with new weapons and systems, also thanks to the open architecture that was adopted since the early design phase.
While the Orion-E in the configuration exhibited in the Rosoboronexport booth had already be seen in two recent Russian defence exhibitions, MAKS and Army, a brand new system is being shown for the very first time at Dubai by Kronshtadt. “Here we are presenting for the very first time ever our newest automated workplace for multiple UAV operations. It was never exhibited before, even in Russia. This new system is designed for automated mission planning and control allowing a single operator to operate multiple UAVs, the system being able to support the decision making process, to automatically detect targets in real-time, and to classify them with the help of Artificial Intelligence,” the company official told EDR On-Line. To know more on the new control station, please click HERE.
Photos by EDR On-Line