Russia's heavyweight attack drone prototype ‘Sirius' caught on camera

Previously only seen as a mockup at a civilian airshow, Russia's heavy-duty "Sirius" killer drone has been tapped in flight by one lucky Russian motorist.
Christopher McFadden
Image of a mockup of the drone in 2021.

Vitaly Kuzmin 

Russia's much-touted multi-engined "Sirius" combat drone prototype has been spotted by a Russian motorist near Ryazan (southeast of Moscow). Thinking quickly, the motorist videoed the drone in flight and uploaded it to social media for all to see earlier this year. The footage, embedded below, clearly shows the drone's sheer size, reportedly 75.5 feet (23 meters) long, with its characteristic V-shaped tails and long wings.

Allegedly a "heavy attack" drone, the "Sirius," is currently in development by the Russian drone manufacturer Kronshtadt. The Sirius aircraft was designed to be a more advanced, twin-engine replacement for the Orion UCAV, a single-engine aircraft used in combat during the invasion.

“Sirius is a pre-war legacy system, along with Helios long-range ISR drone and other Kronstadt projects. This is supposed to be one of the flagship projects to propel Russia into the rank of drone superpowers on the air with the US, Israel, and China. Sirius is supposed to be a significant upgrade of Orion in practically all capabilities,” explained Samuel Bendett to Popular Mechanics. Bendett is an expert on Russian uncrewed systems, and AI at the Center for Naval Analyses and the CNAS think tank.

A mockup of the "Sirius" drone was showcased at the 2019 MAKS airshow, but its flying prototype was only constructed in November 2021. Despite being scheduled to enter service in 2023, the drone took its first flight on February 27, per a leaked Pentagon report. Until now, limited information has been available about the drone's development.

Compared to the "Orion," the "bigger, badder" drone has a number of key changes. Some notable upgrades include an extended range and the addition of a satellite communications (SATCOM) antenna, which enables remote control over vast distances.

The unmanned drone is also capable of carrying more weight and powerful bombs and missiles that are typically used by manned warplanes. This includes the RBK-500U cluster bomblet dispensers weighing 1,100 pounds (about 500 kg) and the destructive ODAB-500PMV fuel-air explosives. Additionally, the drone is equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar system that can generate terrain maps and identify ground vehicles and artillery targets.

Some other common vital stats for the "Sirius" include its maximum altitude of the UAV is 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), a cruising speed of 180 mph (290 kph), and a combat range of 620 miles (just under 1,000 kilometers).

According to reports, Sirius is expected to be released in three different versions: one for attack purposes, one solely for reconnaissance, and another specifically designed for maritime patrol. The third variant, which is set to be utilized by the Russian Navy, will be capable of carrying payloads for a range of tasks, including anti-submarine operations, search and rescue, maritime reconnaissance, and signal-repeater duties.

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