Russia had used Kronshtadt Orion also called Inokhodets, unmanned aerial vehicles armed with guided missiles to destroy fortifications and armored vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. On 4 March 2022, as part of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the modified armed Orion performed an airstrike on Aidar Battalion’s command center in the Donetsk Oblast. This is the first official recognition of Orion’s use in Ukraine. It is understood to have been used for strikes and reconnaissance in Syria, but this was not acknowledged until after the fact. Its deployment to Ukraine suggests a potential shift in Russian operations.
The launch tube on the unmanned combat air vehicle that engaged the target in Ukraine also appears with an air-specific variant of the 9M113 Kornet anti-tank missile believed to be designated X-BPLA. The Orion was shown taking off with a missile tube under each wing before engaging it with a missile. The X-BPLA was designed for use on the Ka-52 attack helicopter as well as the Forpost Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). Its armament is housed in three suspension units. They are KAB-100 and KAB-50L guided glide bombs, KAB-20S guided bombs, and FAB-50 unguided high-explosive bombs. The arsenal also includes guided missiles, the names of which have not yet been disclosed.
The Kronshtadt Orion is a family of Russian unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) developed by the Kronstadt Group. There are several variants of the drone, both for Russia’s domestic and export markets. Kronstadt began the development of Orion in 2011 as part of the Russian MoD-funded Inokhodets program. In 2020, the Russian Defence Ministry received the first batch of Orion drones for trial operation. On 24 August 2021, it was reported that the Russian MoD and Kronshtadt signed a deal for the procurement of 5 combat groups of an upgraded version of Orion, Inokhodets-RU (also known as Sirius). Each group will have several drones; delivery is scheduled for 2023.
The Kronshtadt Orion Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) can reach a top speed of up to 200 km/h. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,000 kg and a payload of 200 kg. It is 8 meters long, has a 16-meter wingspan, and a flight time of 24 hours. It has a range of 250 km and can be operated up to a maximum altitude of 8,000 m. The Orion UAV is fitted with radar mounted at the rear. It also has an electro-optical, laser target finder, and infrared camera. With all these payloads, the drone can destroy ground targets using guided missiles. Citing a Russian source, the drone can detect another target at a range of 96 km and can fire at a range of 4 km from the target.