The international community recently bore witness to a significant shift in Russia’s quest to establish itself as a drone superpower. This came in the form of the first public appearance of the highly anticipated super-heavy drone, the Sirius. This high-tech piece of hardware is the brainchild of the Kronshtadt company, a prominent name in the world of drone development and a pioneer in the Russian drone industry.
The Sirius: A New Era of Drone Technology
The Sirius is essentially an advanced iteration of its predecessor, the Orion, dubbed as its “brother.” The Orion, a single-engine model, has had its fair share of deployment in Ukraine. However, the Sirius, the fruit of innovative design and war experience, is far more advanced and could potentially be the vehicle that propels Russia into the ranks of drone superpowers such as the US, Israel, and China.
Somewhere in Russia earlier this year – Kronshtadt’s Sirius UCAV during a (possible) test flight. pic.twitter.com/upriQXsYtA— Samuel Bendett (@sambendett) June 1, 2023
Unveiled in model form during the 2019 MAKS air show, the flight-ready prototype was only produced in November 2021. Initial expectations were for it to enter service by 2023. Nevertheless, the first successful flight was not until late February, as revealed by a Pentagon report. Most recently, it was sighted airborne near Moscow, and a video was subsequently shared online.
Witnessing the Sirius in Action
A Russian citizen, driving in the vicinity of Ryazan (located southeast of Moscow), fortuitously spotted and filmed the prototype of the Sirius. The shared footage reveals the imposing size of the drone, its uniquely V-shaped tail, and expansive wingspan.
According to experts, the Sirius is one of several projects designed as part of Russia’s pre-war legacy system, including the long-range ISR drone Helios. Indeed, it’s expected to emerge as one of the flagship projects that solidify Russia’s position among the drone superpowers.
A Better Orion: The Power of the Sirius
The Sirius is more than just an Orion upgrade. According to Kronstadt, the Sirius will be equipped to launch both guided and unguided munitions. It’s currently being tested in an autonomous environment, where it interacts with other aircraft, ground vehicles, and systems armed with various weaponry.
The Sirius’s impressive capabilities also extend to reconnaissance missions. The drone will be equipped with optical-electronic systems – a reflection of the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine, where this technology proved crucial.
Unique Features of the Sirius
What sets the Sirius apart is its twin-turboprop engine design, giving it extended range and significant payload capabilities. Its sleek design, consisting of a thin fuselage combined with a straight wing, leads to a distinctive V-shaped tail – a classic design touch of Russian engineers. The drone is expected to possess a wingspan of approximately 23 metres and a length of less than 9 metres. Able to carry a payload of 450 kg, the Sirius will have a maximum take-off weight between 2 and 2.5 tonnes. The Sirius’s altitude capacity is up to 7 km, and its cruising speed is estimated to be around 180 km/h.
The Sirius: A Game-Changer in Drone Technology
The most striking distinction between the Sirius and the Orion lies in its range and its satellite communication (SATCOM) antenna system, which facilitates remote control over great distances. It also possesses the ability to carry heavier and more powerful bombs and missiles, including the 500 kg RBK-500U cluster bomb dispensers and the devastating ODAB-500PMV fuel-air explosives.
Additionally, the drone is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar system, capable of generating terrain maps and identifying ground vehicles and artillery targets.
Adapting to Different Roles
The Sirius is set to be released in three versions, each with a unique purpose: an attack variant, a reconnaissance variant, and a maritime patrol variant. The latter, designed specifically for the Russian Navy, is capable of carrying payloads suitable for various naval operations such as anti-submarine missions, search and rescue, and maritime reconnaissance.
To conclude, Russia’s ambitious venture to join the ranks of drone superpowers has taken a significant step forward with the development and test flights of the Sirius. As the world watches, the success of the Sirius will undoubtedly shape the future of drone warfare and reconnaissance.