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16 Jan 2023


The Orlan Complex. Tracking the supply chains of Russia's most successful UAV

A joint investigation between RUSI, Reuters and iStories has found that Russian companies closely associated with the St Petersburg–based Special Technology Centre Limited Liability Company (STC LLC or STC) – the Russian military-affiliated manufacturer of the Orlan-10 UAV – have drastically increased imports of critical Western-manufactured components since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine began.

These imports will likely enable the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (AFRF) to maintain and expand production of the country’s most successful UAV – a platform that sits at the heart of the country’s warfighting capabilities and enables the AFRF to rain accurate fire down on Ukrainian formations.

Financial records, customs data, court records, Russian company filings and a range of other open sources indicate that many of these Western manufactured imports are likely being procured by a St Petersburg-based company named SMT-iLogic on behalf of STC, which was first sanctioned by the US government in December 2016 for supporting Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.

These components, which are critical both to Russia’s plans to expand UAV production and its ongoing operations in Ukraine, are being shipped to Russia by a variety of distributors based in the United States, Europe, China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

In many cases, these exporters appear to be operated by Russian nationals or expatriates based abroad with limited public profiles. In one such case, a US company owned by an individual with Russian and American citizenship named Igor Kazhdan shipped large volumes of exportcontrolled components to SMT-iLogic and another company named Device Consulting, also based in St Petersburg, in violation of US export controls.

Some of SMT-iLogic’s largest suppliers since the start of Russia’s invasion have been a range of Hong Kong companies, some with a history of evading sanctions and providing military equipment to the Chinese government.

Networks such as those profiled in this report are core to Russia’s ability to procure advanced microelectronics for its weapons programs. As the United States and its allies seek to restrict Russia’s ability to access the world’s most advanced technologies, trade restrictions such as export controls and sanctions are emerging as core tools available to policymakers...

Part of the following timelines

Ukraine: Global outrage over Russian invasion leads to sanctions, demands for businesses to divest

Ukraine invasion: Crucial role of tech companies highlighted after Russian 'act of aggression'

Hundreds of Western components found in Russian Orlan drones used against Ukraine, supply chain investigation shows; incl. co. responses & non-responses