Russia throws Su-30 and Su-35 into battle along with Inokhodets UAV

A new strike air force is expected by the Russian Federation to ensure air superiority in the skies over Ukraine. The long-criticized Moscow is ready to include combat autonomous interaction in the air. It is about the latest development of the St. Petersburg company Kronstadt Group and its Inokhodets-RU [Sirius] medium-altitude long-endurance [MALE] attack UAV.

Russia's Kronshtadt Sirius flies, will carry guided munitions
Photo credit: Wikipedia

In the West, they call the Inokhodets-RU equivalent of the American MQ-9 Reaper drone. To what extent this is the case at the moment we have no way of knowing, or we are yet to find out. But it is a fact that only a few days ago they completed flight tests of Inokhodets. It is not known how many more such there will be, but Russia is ready to throw it into battle along with the Su-30 and Su-35 as their loyal wingmen.

Inokhodets-RU has forgotten a year ago. Russia has begun developing other, priority aerial combat drones. But February 24, 2022, came and that changed many plans. Inokhodets-RU was reborn again, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Yes, this project was not discontinued, but it was literally forgotten, delayed, and left “for some future development”. Well, apparently that future came sooner than expected.

What is Inokhodets-RU?

This drone is a continuation of a line of drones known in Russia under the generic Orion brand. Orion is a reconnaissance and attack drone. I.e. depending on the mission for which it is intended, the drone can be configured differently.

Russia's Kronshtadt Sirius flies, will carry guided munitions
Photo credit: Wikipedia

What missiles it might carry is a question we cannot answer. In Russia, it is also difficult to guess what will appear as armament under the wings and under the “belly” of the drone. There are some comments along these lines, but they mostly come from hobbyist bloggers who suggest that it will most likely be armed with air-to-air missiles. The Vikhr-1 missile is even mentioned.

The wingspan of Inokhodets-RU is 16 meters. It can carry 250 kg of payload. Its cruise speed is 120 km/h [75 mph, 65 kn], while the maximum speed is within 200 km/h [120 mph, 110 kn]. It can stay in the air for at least 24 hours but provided that the payload is reduced to 70 kg. The drone has a range of 1,440 km and can fly at an altitude of 7,500 m [24,600 ft].

As for the communication system, information is scarce here. Russian media reports claim that Inokhodets-RU will be equipped with its own satellite communications system. What – it’s not called?

Vikhr-1 and aerial bombs

Thus, the Vikhr-1 is the missile that is designed to stand under the wings of the attack version of the drone. This is an all-Russian laser beam-riding anti-tank missile. It is entirely Russian because despite the design and initial development being from the end of the Soviet era, the last 30 years have been spent working extremely hard on its continuous upgrade.

Vikht-1 air-to-air missile - Russia throws Su-30 and Su-35 into battle along with Inokhodets UAV
Photo credit: Russian MoD

The Vikhr-1 is powered by a solid fuel rocket and its warhead is an 8–12 kg tandem HEAT charge, with armor penetration behind the ERA, 1,000 mm. Its speed is within Mach 1.8. This missile was developed for two types of launch – air, and sea.

It is not clear how many shots Inokhodets-RU will fire at one target. We say this because, used by helicopters, Su-25s, and ships, operators can fire two missiles at a single target. In this way, and together with the high speed of the missile, greater lethality is sought. Exactly what launch platform Inokhodets-RU will receive is important, because if it is integrated with the standard one for air launch, it means that within 30 seconds the drone will be able to attack four targets.

It is also rumored that Inokhodets-RU may receive FAB-100 and KAB-100 guided air bombs, OFAB-250. All three meet the maximum payload requirement. But there is still no confirmed information on whether these bombs will be part of the strike force of Inokhodets-RU.

Inokhodets-RU in Ukraine

It is important to attempt a more in-depth analysis of how this drone will be used in Ukraine. It was not for nothing that we mentioned that, according to some experts, this drone is equivalent to the American MQ-9 Reaper, especially in its intelligence capabilities.

Russia throws Su-30 and Su-35 into battle along with Inokhodets UAV
Photo credit: Russian Mod

If we analyze the work of the MQ-9 in helping Ukraine, we will find its participation, which helped the Ukrainians to hit the Russian bases Engels and Diaghilev. I.e. it is assumed that in a safe place over Russia Inokhodets-RU can safely monitor movements on Ukrainian soil. Russia has not yet had such a heavy drone for its “special military operation” in Ukraine [a term Russia uses instead of “invasion” or “war”].

Inokhodets-RU will enable, through its intelligence capabilities, the Russian military to plan well the defense of the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, or a follow-up action deeper than now in Ukraine. The drone has powerful sensors.

In this regard, similar information can be shared precisely with the Su-35, Su-30, and even with the Su-34 to carry out more precise attacks. But that’s when the drone is on a reconnaissance mission. However, when the Ukrainian troops launch a surprise attack, this is where the combat capability of the drone comes into play.

The hidden advantage

Inokhodets-RU is believed to be highly suited to quick response, checkmating even highly coordinated, powerful counterattacks. However, a report last year said the drone has a hidden advantage. According to that report, Russia tested both the Orion and Sirius as part of a “manned reconnaissance and strike chain.”

Russian Kondor-FKA space radar satellite sees Ukraine twice a day
Photo credit: NPO Mashinostroyeniya

And here again, we return to the unproven claims that we mentioned and now acquire greater importance – our own satellite communication system. With it, the drone will increase the capabilities of the Su-30/drone or Su-35/drone tandem pair. This data link facilitates both air and ground fire control. Plus, the fighters can be kept, and only the drones can be thrown into battle. Also a nifty thing – the drone’s onboard guided and unguided munitions can act as an extended payload.

And last but not least – SAR. This is a synthetic aperture radar. Inokhodets-RU has such a radar. Why is this good for the Russian military? This radar is capable of detecting moving targets and enemy activity through thick and cloud cover and poor visibility.

Sound familiar? Yes, we recently wrote about exactly one satellite launched by Russia, which will monitor Ukraine twice a day. When you already know about it, as well as the craft of the SAR radar of the drone and the data link and communication with the Su-30 and Su-35, you can logically come to the conclusion that the Inokhodets-RU is not just a weapon, but a military capability, giving priority.

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