Despite the intense and increasingly deadly invasion of their country by Russia, defense forces in Ukraine haven’t lost their sense of humor, and are now using it to mock the reputedly formidable Russian Orlan-10 drone as a DIY assemblage of foreign parts.
The latest – and most amusing – video example of Ukraine troops belittling Russia’s much touted Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone comes from solider “blogger, and warhipster” Operator Starsky in a YouTube gem of his Ukrainian National Guardian unit performing a parody of an unboxing event. In it, the crew starts by playfully picking over the makeshift components of the supposedly cutting-edge craft – starting with a banal water bottle top repurposed as a gas tank cap. It then discovers the UAV’s cutting-edge military sensor is in fact a store-bought, Japanese-made Canon DSLR camera, and most other parts labeled in English.
Even the drone’s engine, it is later determined, was Japanese made.
Clearly a man with wit and a talent for using it, Operator Starsky also has a go at the company producing Russia’s topline military drone – reportedly operating as part of the Skolkovo Innovation Center that calls itself the “Russian Silicon Valley.” Once the inspection of the captured Orlan-10 is complete, he marvels at Russia’s R&D achievement of creating a critical defense and security UAV without a single identifiable nationally produced component.
“Genius solution from the innovative center of Skolkovo,” the text accompanying the video reads. “(A) Russian drone without a single Russian part.”
In a classic example of the updated Soviet era production and repair practice by individuals and industries alike of “snotting together” things by whatever means available, Operator Starsky’s Ukraine defense crew shows how the Cannon camera was fitted in the drone using high-tech adhesive tape. Further examination of the camera – whose retail price is estimated at about $80 – shows it to have been calibrated with glue to lock shutter speed, distance, and other settings in place.
Not quite what you’d expect for a military UAV that Russia says costs $80,000 to $120,000 per unit.
“I think our conscripts could make such a drone roughly for $3,000,” a member of the crew says while taking the Orlan-10 apart. “A majority of that would be used on cigarettes and snacks.”
The Operator Starsky’s offering follows a video posted earlier in the week by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, featuring a specialized officer doing a similar (albeit less pointedly amusing) autopsy of a crashed Russian Orlan-10. That, too, revealed the same jumble of foreign-produced, largely retail components, obliging the soldier to insist the craft is a real deal, and not part of a gag (a possibility one has to consider, given the use of disinformation as a tool in the conflict).
According to Ukraine military sources quoted in 2017, the $100,000-plus Russian drone is usually outfitted with thermal, photo, and video cameras, as well as communication tech. That was clearly not the case for the relatively artisanal Orlan-10s dissected in the videos.
“In a word, it’s a very cheap and versatile drone, which despite cheap production costs costs a lot to Russian taxpayers and citizens,” the inspecting Operator Starsky soldier ironically laments.