The tough future of Russia’s attack drones
The rapid development of military drones around the world has raised a natural question time and time again-why is Russia so backward in design and production? In most cases, the main reason for this is the lazy thinking of the military and engineers. However, one of the most important and completely unreported problems lies in a completely different level-the technical level. Today we are going to analyze the real reason why Russia has fallen behind in attacking drones.
The key parts are all imported components
At present, the number of UAVs equipped by the Russian Armed Forces exceeds 1,900, and unmanned aviation services have been established in military districts, federations and formation headquarters. All Russian high-tech weapons are not Russian parts in the complete sense-the main components of its microelectronics and computer chips are produced in the United States and its allies. This is not classified information: for example, in the “Military Courier” publication, the Blava submarine-launched ballistic missile uses the “Alpha” microcircuit produced in Latvia, and in the documentary of the Russian studio today about K-433 In the picture of the submarine, you can see FPGA chips from Atmel and Altera in the United States. Judging from the available data, the situation of Russian drones (and all areas of the general defense industry) is exactly the same-their production possibilities directly depend on the purchase of imported parts abroad.
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor shaped robot in as many as half of the components are imported; Costa ( Bulava ) submarine-launched missile system, and even the presence of foreign (Baltic Sea) components. Undoubtedly, since the Soviet era, Western semiconductors have always been a strategically significant technology that cannot be sold to Russia . Nonetheless, Russia was able to buy a sufficient amount of Western microelectronic products to realize the large-scale modernization of the military. This trend is clearly reflected in the design and production of drones-it is no accident. In 2014, NATO conducted a number of covert operations on Ukrainian and Syrian territories. The U.S. Special Operations Forces, the British Royal Marine Corps Commando and the British Air Force Special Forces formed multiple task forces to secretly obtain samples of Russian high-tech samples—especially UAVs. According to available data, at least 20 military drones of the Russian Armed Forces were captured in 3 to 4 years : 9 in the Syrian Arab Republic and 11 in the eastern part of Ukraine. At least three organizations in the United States have carefully studied the samples, then analyzed the sources of their parts, followed up the Russian technology supply chain, and further suppressed them. It has been found that all projects of Russian drones started with an extremely plain goal, obtaining western components from civilian projects, and then slowly developing into military models. The following information is not a military/state secret and is taken from a British investigation report. Below you can see the list of imported parts for Russian military drones given there.
Outpost drone “Forpost”
The Forpost UAV is actually the Russian version of the Israeli UAV Finder II. Initially, it was assembled from foreign components, but in 2016, Russia set a route for import substitution. In December 2019, Interfax News Agency reported that the Russian drone Forpost-R has completed the test of localized parts and is preparing for the national test.
The Russian Ministry of Defense decided to import drones from Israel after the South Ossetia conflict in 2008. Israel refused to provide Russia with the latest system and only agreed to sell the tactical searcher Mk II and the light Birdeye 400 drone.
The first two tactical drones and ten portable drones were supplied in 2009. Due to the agreement between Russia and Syria on the S-400 missile, further cooperation may be cancelled. Licensed production of Israeli drones in Russia is also under threat. The Russian army is determined to design a self-made drone even without the assistance of Israel. There was no need to make a breakthrough at the time: the contract with Israel was finally tied and localized production began. Later, Israel did impose “drone” sanctions on Russia. In 2014, new deliveries of Israeli drones were banned.
According to the British report, the key components of the outpost drone are: 1. The single-cylinder 55W-3i engine of Germany’s 3W-Modellmotoren Weinhold GmbH. 2. Spartan XC3550 user programmable gate array from Xilinx, USA. 3. Fuel system components from Tillotson, Ireland. 4. GPS antenna from Antcom, USA. 5. The navigation module of the Swiss manufacturer MicroEM. 6. The dynamic measurement unit (DMU02 or DMU10-depending on the year of manufacture of the drone), manufactured by Silicon Sensing Systems, UK. 7. Radio frequency module 9XTend 900 MHz, produced by Digi International of the United States. 8. Network controller iEthernet W5300, produced by South Korea WIZnet company. 9. GNSS receiver NV08C-CSM from NVS Technologies AG, USA.
The United States even obtained the engine of the captured “Forpost” UAV, which turned out to be made in Germany.
The micro drone has a mass of only 2.8kg and is driven by a 300W brushless motor . The flying speed can reach 65km/h～105km/h, and the maximum flying altitude is 3000m. It carries out 60-minute uninterrupted reconnaissance of the predetermined area and pre-programmed. Up to 99 track points. Drone “Allen”: a 1-bit microcontroller from the Swiss manufacturer STMicroelectronics. 2. The main photographic equipment Sony FCB-EX11DP is produced by Sony Corporation of Japan. 3. Auxiliary photographic equipment Olympus Stylus TG-860, produced by a Japanese company.
UAV “Zastava”: 1. Electronic components of Israeli defense companies Elbit Systems and Data Links. 2. Electronic components of American Vweb company. 3. Engine of Hacker Motor Company in Germany. 4. Autopilot AP04M from UAV Navigation in Spain. 5. GPS module of Swiss company u-blox.
UAV “Orlan-10”: 1. GPS locator: The chips are domestically made HC4060 2H7A201 and STC 12LE5A32S2 35i. 2. Starter generator PTN78020 produced by Texas Instruments in the United States. 3. Internal combustion engine with ignition module 8-9V, 500mA, manufactured by SAITO, Japan. 4. The flight controller is assembled on the basis of the STM32F103 QFP100 microcircuit from French and Italian manufacturer STMicroelectronics. The MPXA4115A and MPXV5004DP microcircuits from Freescale Semiconductor (now owned by NXP Semiconductors NV in the Netherlands) are used as pressure sensors. The HMC6352 compass sensor is manufactured by Honeywell. 5. The GPS module is based on the GLONASS/GPS/QZSS LEA-6N receiver of Swiss u-blox company, matched with the Russian MNP-M7 (based on the American ADSP-BF534 chip produced by ADI). 6. The telemetry transmission module is based on the ATxmega256A3 microcontroller of Microchip, Inc., and the transmission range is 902-928 MHz. The RF3110 transmitter is manufactured by Municom, Germany. The receiver DP1205-C915 produced by AnyLink in Germany.
Disassembled Russian drone Orlan-10. Judging from the pictures shown, the assembly of Russian drones is mainly based on civilian components. Perhaps this is the reason why they wear out quickly and have relatively low reliability when they are used regularly, so a large number of Russian-made drones have been captured in Syria and Ukraine, and even in the Baltic countries. Allegedly, due to technical reasons, most of the drones that fell into the hands of NATO experts have crashed .
Does Russia understand the meaning of the concept of attacking drones?
Analyzing the situation of Russian drones, few people have touched on this topic. Russia is most proud of “Orion” because this drone is considered the most suitable equipment for mass production. However, as in the case of Russian drone components, the situation is far from as simple as it seems. First, the Russian military industry has not come close to producing analogues of the American Hellfire missiles or the Turkish MAM series of gliding bombs. After the incidents in Syria, Libya, and Karabakh, the Russian-made attack drones urgently needed a suitable air-launched anti-tank (with a launch container). The difficulty is that the Russian defense industry has nothing to replace cornet missiles with other things, but Russia cannot ignore the growing world attack drone market.
At the 2021 Dubai Air Show in the UAE, Russia showed a model of Orion, including a helicopter ATGM Vikhr-M. What are the two anti-tank missiles on the attack drone in 2021? The weight is too large to launch no more than two. What are the disadvantages of this solution? According to American experience, the more missiles on your drone, the longer it will fly on the battlefield. It can hover in the air for several hours, waiting for new targets. In the case of active hostilities, this is a key factor. In other words, the ridiculous combat load of the Russian Orion UAV does not allow for the organization of comprehensive air support for ground forces. It doesn’t look very optimistic, does it? In addition, it is worth mentioning that another proprietary technology of the Russian defense industry is the installation of unguided bombs on MALE-class drones. Talking about the certain “economics” of this solution, it shows that Russian gun manufacturers have shown a complete lack of understanding of the nature of the concept of attack drones.
What are the main problems of using aerial bombs on attack drones? Due to the low carrying capacity, heavy ammunition cannot be carried, and in the case of light (100-150 kg) operation, in order to obtain acceptable bombing accuracy, the drone will have to work at low altitude and enter any, even the most primitive air defense system. -Taking into account its low speed characteristics and poor maneuverability. Even an exchange of fire with a low-tech enemy can cause losses. The hypothetical opponents (and corresponding potential buyers) that make this aircraft are significantly lower than all competitors in the world arms market. They are actually useless in battle with the regular army (imagine the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict again, but in the battle with Orion, they either carry a precision light bomb or two missiles, and in the conflict There is no advantage.
In summary, we can say that Russia’s military drones have not yet realized and understood the true meaning of drone operations, whether they are the essence of the concept, tactics, or attack drones. All current actual developments have fully proved this. a little. Without the development of appropriate high-precision weapon systems, it is impossible for Russia to use drones for strikes, whether for personal use or for export delivery.