Russia is transporting Orion medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) drones back to its soil after conducting tests in Syria.
"The Orion drone, capable of carrying up to four missiles, was successfully test-fired in Syria. The drone has started arriving for Russian troops for its operational evaluation, after which the command will make a decision on launching it into serial production and accepting it for service," a source in the defense industry was quoted as saying by TASS on Friday.
When contacted by TASS, Orion Chief Designer Nikolai Dolzhenkov said it was premature to verify the information received from the source. He declined to comment on the drone’s deployment with its weapons in Syria.
"It is still early to specify these aspects. Trials are currently in the final stage. These tests will be completed in the immediate future, and it would be better to talk about it then," Dolzhenkov said.
However, a military expert said that the drone Orion was in the war-torn country in its attack configuration.
"There were multiple drones in Syria in their reconnaissance and attack configuration for a long time. But I can’t say whether the UAVs delivered strikes,” said Viktor Murakhovsky, Editor-in-Chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland journal.
Murakhovsky noted that Orion completed state trials with a small number of critical remarks. "Operational documentation is being developed," he added.
"The Aerospace Force already has proposals on setting up units for employing long-range and long-endurance heavy attack drones. So far, it seems that these units will be mixed to comprise both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles," the expert said.
“The Orion, carrying bombs, is being tested. It was used in Syria without armament,” a source told TASS this February.
The Russian military is expected to get one Orion drone by the end of the current year.
Developed by Kronshtadt Group, the Orion has a maximum take-off weight of 1 tonne and a maximum payload of 200 kg. The drone has a service ceiling of 7.5 km and its maximum flight duration with the standard payload is 24 hours. The drone can fly at speeds of up 200 km/h.