Russia's 'checkmate': Why the Orion combat drone is a gamechanger

Updated: Mar 14, 2022, 04:08 PM(IST)

Kronshtadt Company had said unmanned aerial vehicles like the Orion are becoming more autonomous with the introduction of artificial intelligence.

Orion combat drone

As tensions mounted along the border in Ukraine last year, Russia launched the Orion combat drone. The attack drone fired an air-to-air munition at an unmanned vehicle during testing.

According to the Russian defence ministry the drone also fired at ground targets during the exercise at the Crimean training ground.

Reports said Russia has also reportedly developed a new aircraft-launched laser-guided missile. The Orion drone can take on other drones during combat.


Drone with air-to-surface missiles

The drone is equipped with electro-optical and infrared cameras and is controlled by a "pilot" on the ground. The drone can also carry out reconnaissance while patrolling a specific area.

The drone also has KAB-20 and KAB-50 aerial bombs including UPAB-50 guided gliding aerial bombs

The Orion drone is a medium-altitude, long-duration, unmanned aerial system engineered by Russia's Kronshtadt company.

The drone is capable of carrying four air-to-surface missiles, accelerating to 200 km per hour climbing to 7.5 km can operate for as long as 24 hours.

The drone can carry a combat payload of 250 kg.


Putin slams Turkey's TB2 Bayraktar drone used by Ukraine

Russia had in fact offered the Orion-E combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for export. The Orion-E drone is expected to provide stiff competition to Turkey’s Bayraktar drone.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier criticised Kiev for deploying Turkish-made drones in its conflict with pro-Moscow separatists during a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Ukrainian army had released footage of what it said was its first use of the Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktar drone against separatists in the east of the country where it has been fighting a trench conflict since 2014.

The move was met with criticism from Russia and also Kiev's Western allies.


Turkey, Israel supply drones

Both Turkey and Israel have recently been selling drones in the former Soviet Union and they played a key role Azerbaijan's victory over Russia's ally Armenia in last year's Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Russia and Turkey have historically had complex relations, balancing regional rivalries with finding common ground on economic and strategic interests.


Ukraine claims it is 'defending its territory'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had brushed aside Western criticism of Kyiv using a Turkish-made drone in its conflict with pro-Moscow rebels, saying his country was "defending its territory."

The introduction of the drone is being seen as a potential gamechanger in the Russian-Ukraine struggle.

International monitors in eastern Ukraine, who use unmanned aircraft to report ceasefire violations, have recently said their drones were being jammed.

President Vladimir Putin had earlier told his defence chiefs to work on further developing Russia's arsenal of drones, especially through artificial intelligence.


Artificial intelligence in Orion

 Putin said the military already had more than 2,000 drones at its disposal. The Russian President said  drones had proven their effectiveness in recent conflicts and that Russia had developed defences against their use, including against "terrorist drone attacks" in Syria.

In fact, Kronshtadt Company had said unmanned aerial vehicles like the Orion are becoming more autonomous with the introduction of artificial intelligence.

Drone development is part of a major push for weapons development under Putin, who has made increased Russian military might a cornerstone of his two-decade rule.

A new generation of the Sukhoi stealth fighter jet -- dubbed "The Checkmate" -- was unveiled last year with the ability to carry and launch drones in flight.


Russia's new 'Checkmate' fighter jet

Russia had unveiled a prototype of a new Sukhoi fifth-generation fighter jet at its annual MAKS air show last year with an eye on export markets.

The warplane, given the project name "Checkmate", is likely to be touted as a rival to the US F-35 stealth fighter, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of the Aviaport analytical agency.

Reports first surfaced that the jet was being manufactured in May 2020.

According to the launch video it was developed "in record time".


Price lower than US F-35 jet

The jet can attack up to six targets simultaneously on land, air or sea, "even under conditions of strong electronic interference," the manufacturers said.

It is also capable of carrying drones and launch them during flights. 

Slyusar said he expected nearly 300 orders in the next 15 years mainly from the Middle East, Asia and Latin America for a price "seven times lower" than the F-35.


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