Russia has developed a new accessory for its Orlan 10 UAV that turns the aircraft into the equivalent of a cell phone tower, or a cell phone tower detector and jammer. Troops with the proper equipment and software can use the Orlan 10 to send and receive text, voice and images (including video). This system works with another Orlan 10 accessory; the RB-341V (Leer-3) that will precisely locate cell phone towers and can also jam those within six kilometers. Locating the towers is important because troops on the ground can then go destroy or capture the equipment. Artillery or airstrikes can, with an accurate location, destroy the cell phone gear remotely.
These capabilities are nothing new, American aircraft have had this stuff for over a decade. It’s not particularly high tech but it does represent a unique aspect of modern warfare in which cell phone networks often continue to function on modern battlefields and if the commercial networks don’t the military can employ a temporary one largely suited to their own use. Russia has, since the 1990s, made quite a lot of money exporting military grade electronic weapons. They don’t have the latest stuff, but are willing to provide gear that is still restricted to military use in the West.
The Orlan 10 is one of two modern UAV designs Russia is known to have. It weighs about 15 kilograms (33 pounds) and can carry a payload of up to 6 kilograms of various kinds of recon equipment, including infrared cameras, or an array of multiple cameras used for creating 3-dimensional maps. Its gasoline engine provides a cruise speed of 90 to 150 kilometers an hour, a service ceiling of about 5 kilometers, and a flight endurance of 18 hours. Together with control and launch equipment, the Orlan-10 costs approximately $480,000. The aircraft is launched via a portable, folding catapult, and lands by shutting down the engine and deploying a parachute. Orlan 10 entered service in 2012 and has been used in Ukraine and Syria. Russia is using this combat experience to help export sales of Orlan 10 and the two new electronic warfare features.