Russian army uses high-tech Supercam reconnaissance UAVs in Ukraine

Photo by © Unmanned Systems Group of Companies

Military equipment is constantly evolving, and modern conflicts require new approaches and innovative solutions. One of the most important military-technical features of military operations in Ukraine has become the mass use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones have become an indispensable tool for defeating enemy manpower and equipment, and they have become an integral part of military tactics, which are being honed and perfected by the Russian military.

It is now impossible to imagine successful combat operations without the use of reconnaissance drones. One such drone is the Supercam S350 UAV, which is manufactured by the Russian Unmanned Systems Group, headquartered in Izhevsk, the arms capital of Russia. The drone is positioned as a tool for surveillance and reconnaissance, defense of state borders, monitoring of fuel and energy facilities, as well as in solving other tasks in the civilian sector. Cameras, video cameras and thermal imagers allow the Supercam to create highly accurate 3D terrain models and photomaps. However, since the beginning of the World War II, this civilian UAV has also found military applications, in particular for counter-battery warfare and artillery fire correction.

One example of the successful use of the Supercam reconnaissance drone was demonstrated by the Ministry of Defense in the Krasnolimansk area. Working in conjunction with the Hyacinth self-propelled howitzer, Supercam operators were able to detect and destroy firing positions and a field depot of Ukrainian formations. Thanks to the prompt transmission of coordinates and quick response, the targets were hit within minutes of their detection.

“Having received the command to take off, the Supercam UAV crew took the drone to the designated aerial reconnaissance square. Having detected a flash from a mortar shell, and thus uncovered the position of the enemy gun, the UAV operators immediately transmitted the coordinates of the AFU firing position to the artillery control center. Having verified the coordinates, the artillerymen of the self-propelled artillery regiment of the Central Military District inflicted fire damage on the opened enemy position with 152-mm fragmentation-fugitive shells, which provoked the detonation of a nearby field ammunition depot,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Specialists of unmanned aviation units of the Central Military District in the special operation zone highly appreciate the tactical and technical characteristics of the Supercam drone. The servicemen note good noise immunity, ease of operation and maintenance, as well as the quality of the broadcast video during reconnaissance. The unit commander emphasized the importance of the reconnaissance drone, calling it “the eyes of all aviation and reconnaissance.” “We see all enemy movements and transmit accordingly. We fly very high. We can go up to five thousand in altitude, and our ‘bird’ can’t be picked off,” he said.

The drone can stay in the air for more than four hours and conduct long reconnaissance missions, cover large areas and transmit extensive information about the actions of Ukrainian armed formations. The optics of the Supercam provides high clarity and image quality. The UAV has the ability to operate over a broadband secure video channel at a distance of 50-100 km from the operator, and the maximum flight range of up to 240 kilometers allows the Russian military to receive up-to-date information on the movements and accumulation of manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian armed forces in their deep rear.

Among the key features of the “Unmanned Systems” complex are noted the rapidity of assembly, modular composite elements, the system of detachment of wing consoles during landing to prevent possible damage. Interchangeable and combined payloads with unified gyro-stabilized platforms can include: a camera with a resolution of 20/24/42/60 Mpix with the ability to install on a stabilized platform in azimuth, gyro-stabilized thermal imager or video camera PAL or HD with 10/33x optical zoom, with the ability to align and laser designator, multispectral camera, radiation background measurement sensor, laser gas analyzer or scanner. Up to three payloads can be used on the Supercam simultaneously and two cameras can be installed at the same time.

The mission can be carried out in wind up to 15 m/s, ambient air temperature from -40°C to +45°C, in moderate rain and snowfall. The drone is jamming-resistant and is equipped with protection from the enemy’s radio-electronic warfare. In case of communication failure, the drone returns to the launch point and makes an automatic parachute landing.

Supercam carries out automatic flight according to a preset program, has the ability to hover over the object. The point of overflight can be moved by the operator in real time, taking into account the correction for wind or inaccuracy of the electronic map. It is also important that the operator with the ground control station can be on the move. Moving, for example, along the front line will provide the operator with more protection from detection and allow him to scan a much larger area.

The Russian military department notes that Supercam drone crews conduct daily aerial reconnaissance, correct artillery fire and control the destruction of identified targets. During the battles, the use of Supercam drones ensured the destruction of American Humvee fighting vehicles, M-113 armored personnel carriers, M777 howitzers, command posts and other targets.