This video, uploaded by the Russian Defense Ministry on August 7, 2019, shows a variant of Okhotnik undergoing flight tests.
MOSCOW – The first flight-ready model of the improved Russian S-70 Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy combat drone is on its way to the military for testing, with entry into service expected in 2024.
Developed by the Novosibirsk Air Plant in Chkalov in Western Siberia – a subsidiary of aircraft specialist Sukhoi Company – the drone is fitted with a flat nozzle to increase its stealth capability. It has a takeoff weight of 20 tons, is 14 meters long and has a wingspan of 19 meters.
Reports claim that the new version can reach speeds of up to 1,000 km / h.
The new S-70 is equipped with technologies “exceeding some foreign analogues in a number of parameters,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to the Novosibirsk plant.
A spokesperson for the United Aircraft Corporation, which owns Sukhoi, told Defense News that the S-70 is a “promising aviation platform with great potential for the development of a family of unmanned systems of the future.” .
The drone is expected to complement the missions of the Su-57 fighters, with an aircraft capable of operating in tandem with up to four S-70s, an aviation industry source told the state-owned Tass news agency. If the tests are conclusive, the drone will enter service in 2024, Krivoruchko said.
The head of the Strategy and Technology Analysis Center, Ruslan Pukhov, told Defense News that by unveiling the drone, Sukhoi “confirmed its status as the leading Russian research firm”.
The drone uses a Russian-made engine – the Al-41F1, which is also used on the Su-57 and the Checkmate aircraft – giving it a range of up to 6,000 kilometers, Pukhov added. But he expressed his caution about the future of the drone.
âYou have to wait and see,â the think tank said. “Will it turn into a flying robot capable of flying long distances and performing combat operations?”
He recalled the fate of the heavy drone Skat, the prototype of which was produced by the subsidiary of UAC Russian Aircraft Corporation (commonly known as MiG) in 2007 using stealth technology. But in 2012, work on the project came to a halt due to lack of interest from the Defense Ministry. The effort resumed in 2018.
These thoughts were echoed by retired Col. Mikhail Khodoryonok, senior military analyst for local news site Gazeta.Ru, who told Defense News that the drone “must prove itself in a combat mission”, may -being in Syria. Khodaryonok also has doubts about Skat’s future.
Alexander Bratersky is Defense News Russia correspondent. He has covered US-Russian relations, NATO and Middle East affairs, as well as Russian policy in Syria. He previously worked for the Moscow Times and Izvestia as a political reporter, as well as for RIA Novosti as a Washington correspondent. He also dabbled in stand-up comedy.