Based on the results of the war with Georgia, the Russian military compared and tested different models. Based on these tests, three main drone-building enterprises were selected: 'Eniks', STC and Zala. These would provide the military with drone systems ('Eleron' [Aileron], 'Orlan' [sea eagle], 'Lastochka' [swallow]) for testing. Three Russian-made drone models were presented for government testing in 2012, but only the 'Orlan-10' passed the tests.
According to the Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu (February 2014), almost 320 billion rubles has been allocated to the program of providing the army with drones. The program is intended to be completed by 2020. This is almost 5.925 billion dollars (with an exchange rate of 54 rubles to the dollar). Thus, the yearly spending from 2014 to 2020 on this program will be roughly 987.5 million USD per year.
By estimates of InformNapalm, there were 700-1000 drones in service with the Russian Army at the start of 2015. According to Shoygu's data, the military had about 500 drones in February of 2014. The number of additional drones provided in 2014 was between 350 and 540 units. Thus, there were about 800 to 1040 dronesby the start of 2015.
One of the drones most actively used by the Russian military in its war against Ukraine is the 'Orlan-10' drone. There are constant reports that drones of this model have been shot down by the Ukrainian Military. In addition to this, we were able to identify members of the 19th motorized rifle brigade of the Russian Military with their 'Orlan-10' drone. This brigade is presently located in Ukraine, in the Amvrosiivka district of the Donetsk region.
Combat features of the 'Orlan-10' drone
Let's look at the combat features of the 'Orlan-10' drone (taken from the 2013 drone exhibition) as part of the 'Leer-3' complex: the automated workstations of the drone operator and the payload operator, the antenna-feeder system of the command-telemetric communications, two 'Orlan-10' drones, and the starting apparatus (catapult).
The main combat features of the 'Orlan-10' drone as part of the 'Leer-3' complex are as follows:
- Ceiling - 5000 m,
- Speed - 70-130 km/h,
- Maximum flight duration - 10 h,
- Distance of operation - 120 km,
- Payload type - EW (electronic warfare)
- Maximum payload mass - 2.5 kg
- Takeoff weight - 15 kg
- Operating temperatures - -30 to +40 degrees Celcius
- Deployment time - under 30 minutes,
- Number of blocked GSM communication operators - up to 3
- Radius of blocking zone of subscriber terminals:
- With type 1 transceiver modules - up to 5 km
- With type 2 and 3 transceiver modules - up to 3.5 km
- Engine type - ICE (internal combustion engine)
- Launch method - catapult
- Landing method - automatic, with parachute
- Crew - 4
The 'Orlan-10' drone is classified as an SR (Short Range - up to 300 km) drone. Its advantages over similar drones are its flight duration and distance of operation. In addition, it does not require a runway to take off or land, as it takes off with the help of a catapult and uses a pneumatic inflatable buffer when landing.
Attention is also drawn to the fact that the 'Leer-3' complex is intended for the "monitoring of GSM communication networks, the determination of system identifiers of mobile stations and their locations, and the transmission of obtained data". The drone carries an EW (electronic warfare) payload. Traditional EW methods for the monitoring of GSM networks and the blocking of subscriber terminals are typically ground-based, either stationary or mobile. The use of EW methods of a comparatively low radius on board a drone allows one to significantly improve the accuracy and selectivity of the jamming process. Meanwhile, the 120 km distance of operations keeps the operators hidden and safe.The drone payload changes in accordance with the task at hand. The drone can house video surveillance, directional and other equipment. But the EW tools are specialized, used by the government to perform radio-electronic reconnaissance and to jam the enemy's electronic systems. These tools were developed by specialized research institutions and other organizations, ones that have both the special government licenses needed to produce these tools and the engineers and developers with backgrounds in radio technology, radio physics, programming and related fields. The use of the EW tools also requires special education, training, and access. By the looks of it, the enterprise that developed the 'Orlan-10' drone - the "Special Technological Center" (STC) - meets all these criteria. The main focus of production at the STC are the drone complexes with the 'Orlan-10' drones, and all of the complexes go either to the Ministry of Defence or to law enforcement agencies. The point about insignificance of the imported components is the matter of dispute, since the high-tech parts and components are assembled from imported materials.
The 'Crab' hexacopter ('Orlan-K6') has a video camera with thermal imaging capabilities mounted onto a gyro-stabilized platform. This increases its accuracy, improving its effectiveness on reconnaissance and targeting missions.
The website of the enterprise indicates that it produces 'Bars' radars, intended for direction finding and control over radio sources. They are produced in the stationary, mobile and portable varieties. The specifications of the models differ. For instance, here are the characteristics of the mobile complex:
- Search and direction finding of sources over given frequency ranges
- Control of a list of frequency channels
- Creation of a broadcast schedule on controlled frequencies
- Analysis of the spectrum of one of several frequency ranges
- Display of the instantaneous, average, and accumulated spectra
- Retention of the accumulated spectrum for later use
- Measurement of the signal parameters
- Control over parameters and service data in modern digital mobile communication and data transfer networks (in the GSM/DCS, IMT-MC-450,UMTS,TERRA and LTE standards), as well as over television broadcasts (DVP-T/T2/H)
- Determination of the likely location of a radiation source, and the visualization of the location on a digital map of the surrounding area.
- Automatic execution of measurements according to schedule
- Generation of reports based on the measurement results.
The STC drone division is responsible for the development of the 'Orlan" drone family: 'Orlan-1', 'Orlan-2', 'Orlan-3', 'Orlan-10', 'Orlan-30', 'Orlan-50'. They are also responsible for the development of the 'Crab' hexacopter ('Orlan-K6')
The STC works in the field of radio-control, producing radio-control complexes and their carriers. They have been active on Russian and international markets since 2001. The core team of drone specialists came from the Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation. The enterprise produces over 100 drones yearly, with varying payload types. The total flight time of 'Orlan' drones in 2014 was over 10 000 hours. The drones' high reliability has been confirmed by certified tests performed at the State Flight Test Center, and the 'Orlan' drones have been accepted into service by the Russian military.After assembly, the STC transfers the 'Orlan-10' drones to the Russian military, who in turn transfer them into the hands of the "brave soldiers of the Russian world", such as Aleks Dzhumagaliev, Ruslan Galimov and Nikolai Belokopytenko, who are active participants in the Russian invasion of Donbas (as evidenced by photos from their social network accounts)
Here, for example, is a photo of a serviceman of the drone company of the 19th motorized rifle brigade (military unit No. 20634, Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alaniya, Russia), senior 'Orlan-10' drone operator, graduate of the Training center for specialists of drone aircraft complexes (in Kolomna), Nikolai Belokopytenko. He is standing, armed, in front of the "Donbas Arena" stadium in Donetsk, Ukraine.
It is quite easy to identify the characteristic containers and parts of the 'Orlan-10' drones on the photos of the servicemen.
Here you can see the handiwork of the 'Orlan' drones on Ukrainian soil.Aftermath of a multiple rocket launcher system attack on the bases of the 24th and 79th brigades of the Ukrainian army on July 11, 2014 near Zelenopillya, Luhansk Oblast. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, the attack resulted in 19 dead and 93 wounded.
An 'Orlan-10', shot down on July 23, 2014 near Amvrosiivka, Donetsk region.
An 'Orlan-10', shot down on July 18, 2014 by paratroopers of the 79th brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces
The video camera of a downed 'Orlan-10' drone.
Part of the glider of an 'Orlan-10' drone, ID 10215, shot down on August 1, 2014
It is worth nothing that the STC, like so many other enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex, actively uses 'enemy' high-tech production. In order to perform high-quality aerial photography, the 'Orlan' drones can be equipped in the following way:
Optics on the 'Orlan-10M':
- Phase One IXA 180 camera with a 80 Mp resolution (Phase One, Denmark);
- Phase One IXU 150 camera with a 50 Mp resolution;
- Schneider-Kreuznach Fast Sync Lenses;
- Sony RX-1 camera with a 24 Mp resolution;
- Canon 5D Mark II camera with a 24 Мp resolution.
The onboard equipment of the drone includes the autopilot and the communication systems:
- A failover autopilot of their own development
- A specialized payload controller
- A Javad TRE- G3T GPS/GLONASS receiver (Javad, USA, R&D Center in Moscow)
- G5Ant-42AT GNSS antenna (PPM GMBH, Germany)
- Automatic lateral drift correction device
- Nadir camera to monitor cloudiness over aerial photography region during flight