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Russia confirms Orion UAV strikes in Syria

The Russian Armed Forces have conducted operations with the Orion medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), including strike missions, in Syria, Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials told the Rossiya (Russia) 1 TV channel on 21 February.

An Orion UAV shown in desert camouflage had 38 red stars containing either the Cyrillic letter ‘Р’ standing for a reconnaissance mission and ‘Б’ for strike mission. Examples of strike missions that destroyed targets were also shown.

The Orion UAV was developed by the Kronshtadt company starting in 2011 as tasked by the Russian MoD. Flight tests of the UAV began in 2016. The first set of Orion UAVs was delivered to the military in April 2020. The Russian MoD and Kronshtadt signed a contract on the serial production of an unspecified number of Orion UAVs in June 2020.

Orion’s design is typical for this class of UAV with long loitering times. The airframe is almost entirely made of carbon fibre and its maximum take-off weight is approximately 1,000 kg. The UAV is powered by a single APD-115T engine producing up to 120 hp in a pusher configuration at the rear of the fuselage. Orion can fly at altitudes up to 7,500 m with an endurance of 24 hours and can carry a payload weighing up to 250 kg. It includes a gyro-stabilised electro-optical system developed by Moscow-based company NPK SPP and weapons, although these were not disclosed by the Russian MoD.

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