Nearly three months of fierce fighting in Ukraine already allow us to draw several intermediate conclusions about possible ways for the further development of the Russian army after the completion of the NMD. Practice "on the blood" has shown that some previously popular ideas turned out to be extremely harmful.
The first conclusion that we can already draw now is that wars are not won by precision weapons alone. No matter how much you launch "Caliber", "Daggers", "Zircons" and other "wunderwafers" on targets, then you will have to fight on the ground. The second conclusion follows from the first: relying on a small professional army, the idea of which has been so actively imposed on us since the beginning of the 90s, is erroneous. Yes, the core of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation should consist of regular military and contract soldiers, but the army of a country like Russia should be popular, and its population should undergo initial military training from an early age. And the third conclusion is that drones are far from being "wunderwaffles", as manufacturers praise them, but without them there is nowhere in modern warfare.
I would like to talk specifically about the use of UAVs. We will definitely devote a separate article to drones that are used against us by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Guard of Ukraine, but now let's see what the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation approached the beginning of the special operation with.
UAV in Russian
According to the channel "Star", the Russian military began to use the Orlan-10 unmanned complex as a strike:
During the special operation, for the first time, the military personnel used the latest modification of the drone, which can now deliver high-precision strikes on the ground and hit manpower and machinery. UAV operators find the target and drop high-explosive fragmentation ammunition from a height of two kilometers.
One can only rejoice at the ingenuity of domestic developers, but the sad thing about all this is that such impromptu technical solutions have to plug huge gaps in this type of weapon. It is with great regret that we have to state that the Russian army in the component of unmanned technologies approached the NMD poorly prepared. Yes, in the past few years, there have been reports of the development and testing of UAVs of various classes: Orion, Orlan, Lancet, Altius-U, Okhotnik and others. However, the problem lies in the fact that almost all of these are so far single samples that have not been put into mass production. And we need them so much right now!
Thus, the Altius-U (formerly Altair) reconnaissance and strike UAVs would provide invaluable assistance to the RF Armed Forces. According to the developers, this drone, equipped with a side-looking AFAR radar and an optical surveillance reconnaissance station with an optoelectronic system, is capable of staying in the air for up to 48 hours at an altitude of up to 12 kilometers. From there, he could control the rapid movement of mobile armored groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from city to city, using the tactics of "toad jumps". It is very problematic to prevent this by the RF Armed Forces, since the existing satellite system does not allow continuous monitoring of the entire territory of Ukraine, and we have so few AWACS aircraft that they can be counted on the fingers of the hand.
Why does the Russian Defense Ministry still not have dozens of Altius-Us? Because initially they were developed for the German diesel engines RED A03 / V12, the supply of which to Russia was blocked by the Americans, and the Design Bureau. Klimov had to create his own VK-800V engine to replace it. The contract for the supply of the first batch of reconnaissance and strike UAVs of this type to the military was concluded only last year, in 2021. When they actually enter the troops is unknown.
The S-70 heavy attack drone could contribute to the destruction of the military infrastructure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Created using stealth technologies, the UAV is capable of carrying a combat load of up to 8 tons and dropping bombs weighing up to 500 kilograms. However, so far the "Hunter" exists in only a few copies and is still being tested. He will begin to enter the troops no earlier than 2024.
The situation is better with the Orion medium-altitude UAV from the Kronstadt company. Initially, it was created for optoelectronic, radar or electronic reconnaissance and long patrols, however, clearly looking at the Turkish Bayraktars, the developer provided for the possibility of installing four X-50 air-to-ground missiles on it, which can be replaced by 6 corrected free-falling bombs KAB-20 or 3 KAB-50, or guided glider bomb UPAB-50, or free-fall bomb FAB-50. The Orions have already passed the real test of combat in Syria, destroying small groups of terrorists, while remaining out of range of their MANPADS. In 2021, it was reported that the Kronstadt company completed the construction of a plant for the production of Orion and Sirius UAVs and two more helicopter-type attack drones:
Construction and installation works have been completed in the production building of Russia's first specialized serial plant for large-size unmanned aerial vehicles. Construction took place from April to December 2021 - this is the first aircraft plant built in post-Soviet Russia.
Sirius is a further development of Orion, it has 2 engines, a flight range of over 10 kilometers and a takeoff weight of 000 tons. The development is being carried out by the Kronstadt company on its own initiative, the UAV is just beginning to be tested, flight tests will continue until the end of the year.
The foregoing allows us to conclude that in the coming years, the main "workhorse" of Russian unmanned aircraft will be precisely the medium-altitude UAVs "Orion", analogues of "Bayraktarov". The attempt to adapt light reconnaissance UAVs "Orlan-10", with which we began this story, for strikes against Ukrainian light equipment, causes only sadness.
In fact, "Orlan-10" is a banal constructor made from imported civilian components. Several of these drones fell into the hands of the Americans, who released information about their internals. This includes, for example, an internal combustion engine from the Japanese company SAITO, a flight controller based on the STM32F103 QFP100 chip from the Franco-Italian manufacturer STMicroelectronics, MPXA4115A and MPXV5004DP chips from the American company Freescale Semiconductor, the RF3110 transmitter from the German company Municom, the HMC6352 compass sensor from the American company Honeywell, the GLONASS / GPS / QZSS LEA-6N by Swiss company u-blox, starter-generator PTN78020 by American company Texas Instruments Incorporated, microcontroller ATxmega256A3 by American company Microchip, receiver DP1205-C915 by German company AnyLink, GPS tracker with Chinese-made chips, etc.
Also, a lot of imported components are contained in the filling of the Zastava, Granat, Eleron and Outpost UAVs. Undoubtedly, in the very near future, the lack of foreign components will become a big problem for the production of a wide range of Russian drones. Their import substitution had to be carried out, as they say, yesterday.
It has come to the point that ordinary Chinese-made civilian drones such as DJI Mini 2 and Mavic 3 are now widely and quite effectively used in the Donbass. Simple and inexpensive, but equipped with a camera with a thermal imager and a powerful zoom, such quadrocopters allow you to conduct reconnaissance at a tactical level, saving lives personnel, and adjust the fire. On April 26, a Chinese company suspended the supply of its drones to Russia and Ukraine:
DJI conducts an internal review of compliance requirements in various jurisdictions. Pending the ongoing review, DJI will temporarily suspend all of its activities in Russia and Ukraine. We are interacting with customers, partners and other stakeholders regarding the temporary suspension of business operations and the termination of deliveries of orders.
Like this. In general, it is bad to depend on someone. We need to draw the right conclusions and quickly solve the problems of import substitution.