Ivan, you should only worry about the ‘strengthening’ part – I can ‘direct’ fine by myself!
Marshal Nedelin – in imaginary answer to Academician Sakharkov
after the successful testing of the hydrogen bomb
Dennis Fetudinov, an employee of the State Research Institute of Aviation Systems (Moscow) and the editor of the web portal uav.ru stated, in a 2011 interview with Bernard Slacki, that in Russia “the realization of the need to develop new drones came after the hostilities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Georgian Hermes-450 drones (IAI) demonstrated good results during reconnaissance flights”, even though some were shot down by the Russian military when flying on missions over Abkhazia.
Based on the results of the war with Georgia, the Russian military compared and tested different models. Based on these tests, three main drone-building enterprises were selected: ‘Eniks’, STC and Zala. These would provide the military with drone systems (‘Eleron’ [Aileron], ‘Orlan’ [sea eagle], ‘Lastochka’ [swallow]) for testing.
«It is critical that we provide the Airborne Troops with these drones as soon as possible. The operation of forcing Georgia into peace showed that we need more effective ‘battlefield’ drones, ones that are capable of not only looking over the nearest hill, but also of seeing dozens of kilometers ahead, giving exact coordinates of targets and allowing them to be targeted not only by the means at our direct disposal, but also by artillery systems that are located 70-100 kilometers away. I recall that we drew attention to this problem even before the Five-Day War, which was four years ago, and we still have not made any progress. Enough talk! Give the most militarily active forces what they need in order to fight!” – said the commander of the Airborne Troops, Colonel General Shamanov (2012).
Three Russian-made drone models were presented for government testing in 2012, but only the ‘Orlan-10’ passed the tests.
According to the Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu (February 2014), almost 320 billion rubles has been allocated to the program of providing the army with drones. The program is intended to be completed by 2020. This is almost 5.925 billion dollars (with an exchange rate of 54 rubles to the dollar). Thus, the yearly spending from 2014 to 2020 on this program will be roughly 987.5 million USD per year.
We predicted that the cost of the 179 drones provided to the Russian Military in 2014 was somewhere between 300 million and 1 billion USD. The upper limit turned out to be closer to the value declared by Shoygu in his 2014-2020 drone plan statement.
By our estimates, the number of drones in the Russian military at the start of 2015 was 700-1000. According to Shoygu’s data, the military had about 500 drones in February of 2014. The number of additional drones provided in 2014 was between 350 and 540 units. Thus, by the start of 2015, we are talking about 800 to 1040 drones.
Therefore, the Russian military’s drone program has a budget of about 1 billion USD per year, and provides about 170 units per year. The cost of one unit is roughly 5.6 million USD.
The members of ‘the banquet’ that have been invited to divide up a 1-billion-USD-per-year pie can count on a hefty profit, and play an active role in instructing the drone operators on how to properly use the equipment.
One of the drones most actively used by the Russian military in its war against Ukraine is the ‘Orlan-10’ drone. There are constant reports that drones of this model have been shot down by the Ukrainian Military. In addition to this, we were able to identify members of the 19th motorized rifle brigade of the Russian Military with their ‘Orlan-10’ drone. This brigade is presently located in Ukraine, in the Amvrosiivky raion of Donetsk Oblast.
Combat features of the ‘Orlan-10’ drone
Let’s look at the combat features of the ‘Orlan-10’ drone (taken from the 2013 drone exhibition) as part of the ‘Leer-3’ complex: the automated workstations of the drone operator and the payload operator, the antenna-feeder system of the command-telemetric communications, two ‘Orlan-10’ drones, and the starting apparatus (catapult).
The main combat features of the ‘Orlan-10’ drone as part of the ‘Leer-3’ complex are as follows:
- Ceiling – 5000 m,
- Speed – 70-130 km/h,
- Maximum flight duration – 10 h,
- Distance of operation – 120 km,
- Payload type – EW (electronic warfare)
- Maximum payload mass – 2.5 kg
- Takeoff weight – 15 kg
- Operating temperatures – -30 to +40 degrees Celcius
- Deployment time – under 30 minutes,
- Number of blocked GSM communication operators – up to 3
- Radius of blocking zone of subscriber terminals:
- With type 1 transceiver modules – up to 5 km
- With type 2 and 3 transceiver modules – up to 3.5 km
- Engine type – ICE (internal combustion engine)
- Launch method – catapult
- Landing method – automatic, with parachute
- Crew – 4
The ‘Orlan-10’ drone is classified as an SR (Short Range – up to 300 km) drone. Its advantages over similar drones are its flight duration and distance of operation. In addition, it does not require a runway to take off or land, as it takes off with the help of a catapult and uses a pneumatic inflatable buffer when landing.
Attention is also drawn to the fact that the ‘Leer-3’ complex is intended for the “monitoring of GSM communication networks, the determination of system identifiers of mobile stations and their locations, and the transmission of obtained data”. The drone carries an EW (electronic warfare) payload.
Traditional EW methods for the monitoring of GSM networks and the blocking of subscriber terminals are typically ground-based, either stationary or mobile. The use of EW methods of a comparatively low radius on board a drone allows one to significantly improve the accuracy and selectivity of the jamming process. Meanwhile, the 120 km distance of operations keeps the operators hidden and safe.
The drone payload changes in accordance with the task at hand. The drone can house video surveillance, directional and other equipment. But the EW tools are specialized, used by the government to perform radio-electronic reconnaissance and to jam the enemy’s electronic systems. These tools were developed by specialized research institutions and other organizations, ones that have both the special government licenses needed to produce these tools and the engineers and developers with backgrounds in radio technology, radio physics, programming and related fields. The use of the EW tools also requires special education, training, and access. By the looks of it, the enterprise that developed the ‘Orlan-10’ drone – the “Special Technological Center” (STC) – meets all these criteria.
What is the STC?
Information regarding the STC appeared in the press rather often, usually in relation to them providing the Russian military with ‘Orlan-10’ drones. For instance: The Special Technological Center (STC) increases shipments of the ‘Orlan’ drone complexes to the Russian Ministry of Defense:
“Last year the STC produced, as part of a defense order, around 200 drones. This year, we will up that number to almost 300” – stated a representative of the agency. He noted that most (roughly 90%) of that number are ‘Orlan-10’ drones. Only a few ‘Orlan-1’ and ‘Orlan-2’ apparatuses are ordered. The representative also stated that the ‘Orlan-10’ complex is provided to the army on a Kamaz chassis. The last few years saw the production of over 200 complexes of this type. STC is expanding production and hiring new staff to keep up with the increased demand, said the representative. According to him, not a single drone complex was sold to civilians – all of the complexes are sold either to the Ministry of Defence or to law enforcement agencies. The complexes are currently not exported, said the source. The change of the ruble exchange rate has had practically no effect on the cost of the complexes, as they have few components that need to be imported”.
Therefore, the main focus of production at the STC are the drone complexes with the ‘Orlan-10’ drones, and all of the complexes go either to the Ministry of Defence or to law enforcement agencies. The point about insignificance of the imported components is the matter of dispute, since the high-tech parts and components are assembled from imported materials.
We know of a civilian application of the the ‘Orlan-10’ drones (M): aerial photography and cartography. In 2015, ‘Orlan-10’ drones, outfitted with aerial photography systems, were presented at the conference “Application of unmanned aerial vehicles in the remote probing of the earth for the purposes of cartography and object monitoring”, which took place on June 2-4, 2015 at the Alferyevo Airfield outside of Moscow. But the number of ‘Orlan-10’ drones used for these purposes is, evidently, insignificant.
The ‘Crab’ hexacopter (‘Orlan-K6’) has a video camera with thermal imaging capabilities mounted onto a gyro-stabilized platform. This increases its accuracy, improving its effectiveness on reconnaissance and targeting missions.
The STC website has the following information: “The enterprise has had a presence at Russian and international measuring equipment markets for about 10 years. In this time, it has become a leading producer of radio-control equipment”. The address of the enterprise is St. Petersburg, 21 Gzhatskaya St., building 2.
The website of the enterprise indicates that it produces ‘Bars’ radars, intended for direction finding and control over radio sources. They are produced in the stationary, mobile and portable varieties. The specifications of the models differ. For instance, here are the characteristics of the mobile complex:
- Search and direction finding of sources over given frequency ranges
- Control of a list of frequency channels
- Creation of a broadcast schedule on controlled frequencies
- Analysis of the spectrum of one of several frequency ranges
- Display of the instantaneous, average, and accumulated spectra
- Retention of the accumulated spectrum for later use
- Measurement of the signal parameters
- Control over parameters and service data in modern digital mobile communication and data transfer networks (in the GSM/DCS, IMT-MC-450,UMTS,TERRA and LTE standards), as well as over television broadcasts (DVP-T/T2/H)
- Determination of the likely location of a radiation source, and the visualization of the location on a digital map of the surrounding area.
- Automatic execution of measurements according to schedule
- Generation of reports based on the measurement results.
These functional capabilities correspond to network control tools intended for wireless transfer of data and other radio-technical systems. But here is the interesting part – the STC website has no mention whatsoever about the production of ‘Leer-3’ complexes, or even of ‘Orlan-10’ drones. Meanwhile, the catalog of the ‘Army-2015’ exhibition clearly states the address of the ‘Special Technological Center’ (St. Petersburg, 21 Gzhatskaya St., Letter ‘B’, Office 53).
The Russian and English descriptions of the enterprise’s activities, found in the catalog of the ‘Army-2015’ exhibition, differ, but the English version clearly states that the enterprise develops and manufactures drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems). This information is not present in the Russian version. It is also strange that the online-catalog of the ‘Army-2015’ exhibition, the STC is named, but no contact information is given.
A brochure for the ‘Special Technological Center’, published a few years ago, clearly states that the enterprise manufactures ‘Bars’ radars and ‘Orlan’ drones.
Therefore, the address of the ‘Special Technological Center’, which develops special radio-technical complexes and ‘Orlan-10’ drones is St. Petersburg, 21 Gzhatskaya St., Letter ‘B’, Office 53. This same address is listed on the conformity certificate, given on March 2, 2015 to the LLC ‘Special Technological Center’ by the Institute for Testing and Certification of Weapons and Military Equipment. It is also listed in the certificate of registration of the entity with the INN code 7802170553 and the KPP code 780401001. The address corresponds to the Vedeneyev Hydraulic Engineering Research Institute.
Why does the STC not publish information about the drones it manufactures on its website? Evidently, the reason for this is the fact that, as mentioned before, “all of the complexes are sold either to the Ministry of Defense or to law enforcement agencies”.
The enterprise publishes information regarding three patents:
- “Method and device intended for the determination of the coordinates of a radiation source”, patent №2283505, priority date January 31, 2005.
- “Method and device intended for radio signal direction-finding”, patent №2263327, priority date January 15, 2004.
- “Method intended for the determination of the coordinates of a radiation source”, patent №2296341, priority date November 24, 2005.
The patent holders are Terentyev Aleksey Vasilievich, Solomatin Aleksandr Ivanovich, Smirnov Pavel Lenidovich, Tsarik Oleg Vladimirovich, Tsarik Igor Vladimirovich, Shepilov Aleksandr Mihailovich and Shishkov Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich.
The STC is also proud of its diplomas. What surprised us, however, was how proud they are of diplomas given to them by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and the international salon ‘Noviy Chas’ [New Time], granted to them in 2007 in Sevastopol.
It is deeply ironic that these people are so proud of diplomas given to them by a country they are at war with; diplomas given to them in a city that was captured by their armed forces. Perhaps no one told them that there’s a war going on with Ukraine, and that Sevastopol (along with all of Crimea) is occupied by Russia?
Who are these shy people at the STC?
According to https://sbis.ru, the director of the LLC ‘Special Technological Institute’ (INN code 7802170553) is Mityagin Aleksandr Gennadievich, while the owners of the enterprise are Solomatima Nataliya Petrovna, Shishkov Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich, Andropova Irina Yurievna and 5 other private individuals.
According to data from 2012, the shareholders of the STC were the following: the ‘Specialized Business Center for Information Security and Special Technical Means’ ( 10% of the shares), Terentyeva Larisa Danilovna (26% of the shares), Romanenkova Tamara Vladislavovna (13% of the shares), Solomatina Nataliya Petrovna (13% of the shares), Shishkov Aleksandr Yakovlevich (13% of the shares) and Andropova Irina Yurievna (25% of the shares).
The LLC ‘Specialized Business Center for Information Security and Special Technical Means’ develops ‘Poisk’ [Search] technology for ballistics tests and the identification of weapons and ammunition. The shareholders are Ilyasov Yuriy Vladimirovich (44%), the ‘Omega’ special agency (25%) , Zhavoronkov Valerij Arkadievich (13%), one private individual and one unnamed shareholder.
In addition to this, open sources also note the former director Shishkov Aleksandr Yakovlevich, the head of the drone division and chief designer Ivanov Roman Vyacheslavovich, as well as the military representative Aleksey Psarev.
The STC drone division is responsible for the development of the ‘Orlan” drone family: ‘Orlan-1’, ‘Orlan-2’, ‘Orlan-3’, ‘Orlan-10’, ‘Orlan-30’, ‘Orlan-50’. They are also responsible for the development of the ‘Crab’ hexacopter (‘Orlan-K6’)
The STC works in the field of radio-control, producing radio-control complexes and their carriers. They have been active on Russian and international markets since 2001. The core team of drone specialists came from the Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation. The enterprise produces over 100 drones yearly, with varying payload types. The total flight time of ‘Orlan’ drones in 2014 was over 10 000 hours. The drones’ high reliability has been confirmed by certified tests performed at the State Flight Test Center, and the ‘Orlan’ drones have been accepted into service by the Russian military.
From St. Petersburg ‘with love’ – the trails of the ‘Orlan’ drones in Ukraineе
The assembly production of the ‘Orlan-1’, ‘Orlan-10’ and ‘Orlan-30’ drones and the ‘Crab’ (‘Orlan-K6’) hexacopter, was shown in a feature about the STC on the ‘Zvezda’ [Star] channel. As can be seen during the feature, the manufacturing process is controlled by military representatives of the Russian Armed Forces. One of them, Aleksey Psarev, enthusiastically talked about the quality control of the production process.
After assembly, the STC transfers the ‘Orlan-10’ drones to the Russian military, who in turn transfer them into the hands of the “brave soldiers of the Russian world”, such as Aleks Dzhumagaliev, Ruslan Galimov and Nikolai Belokopytenko, who are active participants in the Russian invasion of Donbas (as evidenced by photos from their social network accounts)
Here, for example, is a photo of a serviceman of the drone company of the 19th motorized rifle brigade (military unit No. 20634, Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alaniya, Russia), senior ‘Orlan-10’ drone operator, graduate of the Training center for specialists of drone aircraft complexes (in Kolomna), Nikolai Belokopytenko. He is standing, armed, in front of the “Donbas Arena” stadium in Donetsk, Ukraine.
It is quite easy to identify the characteristic containers and parts of the ‘Orlan-10’ drones on the photos of the servicemen.
Here you can see the handiwork of the ‘Orlan’ drones on Ukrainian soil.
Training and Testing Center (TTC) of the STC»
Drone production at the STC is done in St. Petersburg, but special attention must be paid to the Training and Testing Center (TTC), which is intended to test drones and train drone operators. Here are its main characteristics:
- A concrete runway with a length of 450 meters
- A professionally staffed traffic control tower
- A main building, with two lecture halls (each with space for 30 students), 16 beds and a kitchen
- A heated zone for pre-flight preparation and drone repair
- Off-road vehicles, allowing for the deployment of starting positions and for evacuation measures
- The TTC is located about 70 km from St. Petersburg
Based on the material gathered from the “Zvezda” television broadcast, as well as other information from open sources, we have been able to locate the STC TTC. All signs point to the TTC being located between the settlements of Begunitsy and Mestanovo in the Leningrad Oblast. Its coordinates are 59°36’16.31″N, 29°16’22.95″E, which puts it practically halfway between St. Petersburg and Narva (Estonia).
The ‘Orlan’ drone in the Arctic resource war
It bears mentioning that the ‘Orlan’ drones are used for aerial photography purposes by civilian organizations, such as the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and the company ‘LIMB’. However, taking into account Russia’s aggressive rhetoric aimed at other countries regarding their claims on Arctic resources, and Russia’s deployment of military bases in the Arctic, it seems quite reasonable to view the development of products intended for use in the arctic as a preparation for the military deployment of STC-made drones in the Arctic. For instance, there were reports that the Simonov Experimental Design Bureau was developing a drone intended for arctic use, and that this drone would be able to stay in the air for 48 hours, covering a distance of up to 10 thousand kilometers in that time.
In this direction, Russia is also ‘surrounded by enemies’ – USA, Canada, Norway and Denmark.
It is worth nothing that the STC, like so many other enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex, actively uses ‘enemy’ high-tech production. In order to perform high-quality aerial photography, the ‘Orlan’ drones can be equipped in the following way:
Optics on the ‘Orlan-10M’:
- Phase One IXA 180 camera with a 80 Mp resolution (Phase One, Denmark);
- Phase One IXU 150 camera with a 50 Mp resolution;
- Schneider-Kreuznach Fast Sync Lenses;
- Sony RX-1 camera with a 24 Mp resolution;
- Canon 5D Mark II camera with a 24 Мp resolution.
The onboard equipment of the drone includes the autopilot and the communication systems:
- A failover autopilot of their own development
- A specialized payload controller
- A Javad TRE- G3T* GPS/GLONASS receiver (Javad, USA, R&D Center in Moscow)
- G5Ant-42AT* GNSS antenna (PPM GMBH, Germany)
- Automatic lateral drift correction device*
- Nadir camera to monitor cloudiness over aerial photography region during flight*
(*) Available for ‘Orlan-10’ only
Aside from all of this, in order to provide additional stealth to the ‘Orlan’ mobile control point, a special fabric is used that masks radio and thermal radiation. The press had reports that “Switzerland, regardless of the sanctions, has allowed the fabric to be sold. This fabric protects the control point from detection by radar and infrared detectors. It can be used to make camouflage nets… The customer in this case was a Russian entrepreneur, whose business is of a ‘civilian nature’. The contract is worth 85 million Euros. It is possible that this ‘civilian customer’ is really making camouflage nets for the ‘Orlan’ control points.
It is well known that cameras on gyro-stabilized mounts (the kind used in drones) are manufactured in Russia (Kazan and St. Petersburg, just to name a few). Russia also develops and releases drone autopilots and other electronic equipment. However, it is highly unlikely that Russia will, in the near future, start developing high-quality compact optical and thermal imaging equipment, as well as equipment needed for navigation and communication. Even if they had the production capability necessary for some steps of the process, they would not be able to produce everything from start to finish in Russia, without resorting to imported materials. As was demonstrated above, most of the countries that produce equipment needed for the ‘Orlan-10’ drone to function are so-called ‘potential enemies’
The degree of the sanctions regarding high-tech equipment sold to Russia will determine how successful Russia’s import substitution will be when producing the drones. In a similar situation, when sanctions were levelled against Iran, good results were achieved.
- About 1 billion USD per year will be allocated to Russia’s drone program during the 2014-2020 period.
- At the start of 2015 the Russian military had, according to our estimates, between 800 and 1040 drones.
- The Russian military requires over 170 drone complexes per year (each with 2 or more drones).
- The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has created a special subdivision dedicated to the construction and development of drone systems.
- The use of drones is possible after a decision has been made by the General Staff.
- One of the main Russian drone suppliers to the Russian military is the LLC “Special Technological Center” (STC), which supplies them with drones from the ‘Orlan’ drone family, the most popular model of which is the ‘Orlan-10’.
- The STC is capable of producing two to five drones per day.
- The ‘Orlan-10’ drone is used for reconnaissance, artillery targeting, monitoring, and communications jamming
- The training of the ‘Orlan-10’ drone operators is done at the Mezhvidovo drone center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, located in Kolomne (Moscow Oblast). It is possible that the operators are also trained at the STC TTC.
- ‘Orlan-10’ drones were shot down by Ukrainian Armed Forces on multiple occasions in the ATO zone. The identification numbers of the drones that were shot down are 10212, 10215, 10237.
- The ‘Leer-3’ complex, which includes the ‘Orlan-10’ drone, as well as the Russian servicemen using these complexes, were recorded as being part of the Russian military units serving in combat zones in Ukraine.
- ‘Orlan-10’ drones have been sent to occupied Crimea, where they are intended to become part of a drone regiment.
- ‘Orlan-10’ drones are undergoing testing at Russian military bases in the Arctic.
- The location of the STC Training and Testing Center (TTC) was determined to be 59°36’16.31″N, 29°16’22.95″E.
Certain members of STC responsible for the development, manufacturing, testing and transfer of the ‘Orlan-10’ drone systems to the Russian military were identified, as were certain other individuals who stand to gain from the Russian military’s purchase of drones.
According to ‘Kommersant’ media, the USA and the EU are gathering information regarding the structures affiliated with the Russian individuals and organizations that have been blacklisted by the USA and the EU. The West is also actively looking for loopholes that Russian companies (both blacklisted ones and ones not on the list) use to bypass the sanctions, such as the restrictions on the supply of dual-use equipment and technological exchanges.
Russia’s recent (July 29, 2015) veto at the UN Security Council with regards to an international investigation and tribunal is, in effect, an admission that Russia used the ‘Buk’ complex to destroy MH17, and will likely have serious repercussions for Russia down the line. Sadly, the veto is yet another symptom of the degradation of the Russian public administration system, which has had serious disruptions recently, and which has taken a serious political and economic toll on the country.
Aside from Russian politicians and military men, the developers of these weapons also have a responsibility. Those who work in the Russian military-industrial complex are responsible for what they produce. These sophisticated military machines cannot work without support from the workers at the development enterprises. Special responsibility lies with the developers of the high-intelligence anti-aircraft systems, the communications, the high-precision weaponry and also with the developers of the drones.
They know full well what problems can occur with the equipment, where and in what conditions their systems are used, as the staff at these enterprises provides tech support to the military. And it should be obvious that those who stand to gain the most from the increase in drone spending by the Russian military are the shareholders of the STC.
They might say “I didn’t know that Russia was fighting in Ukraine”, “I didn’t know that the Russian military shot down MH17” or “I didn’t know that Russia was violating international law”, but who will believe them? And they knew that they were violating international law then, evidently, each of these law-breakers could be punished in accordance with this law. Not just in relation to organizations, but also in relation to the people themselves. We can hope that the people related to the STC are already persona non grata (at least in Ukraine).
Academician Sakharov and his colleagues, when they were building the hydrogen bomb, were driven by an idea. Even then, they didn’t have much choice, being behind the Iron Curtain. The current Russian military developers do have a choice, and they can travel freely across the entire world. However, they seem to be more concerned with their piece of the pie, even if the pie was cooked in the fires of the Ukrainian conflict.
Original article by Über Zalizyaken Ukroppen; translated by Aleksandr Kostenko; edited by Oleksandr Klymenko