The first flight prototype of Russia’s state-of-the-art S-70 ‘Okhotnik’ (‘Hunter’) heavy strike drone was rolled out at the Novosibirsk Aviation Enterprise and preparations are underway for the drone’s debut flight. The drone’s roll-out signifies the end of the item’s assembly as a whole and its outfitting with all the required onboard equipment in compliance with the requirements for aircraft and the switchover to comprehensive ground tests to prepare for its debut flight. The Russian deputy defense minister who is on a working trip to Novosibirsk inspected the pace of the fulfillment of the defense procurement plan at the Novosibirsk Aviation Enterprise and held a meeting with the enterprise’s management where he discussed the implementation of government contracts. The defense official oversaw the roll-out of the first Okhotnik drone flight prototype and inspected the process of the assembly of the drone’s second prototype.
The Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B (Hunter), also referred to as Hunter-B, is a Russian stealth heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Sukhoi and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (PJSC United Aircraft Corporation) as a sixth-generation aircraft project. The drone is based on the earlier Mikoyan Skat, designed by MiG, and encompassing some technologies of the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jet. The Okhotnik has been under development since at least 2011, when Sukhoi was selected by the Russian Defence Ministry to lead a programme for a new heavy unmanned reconnaissance and attack drone. The new UCAV is being jointly developed by MiG and Sukhoi, based on data of the earlier Mikoyan Skat UCAV programme. The work is carried out by the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO), part of the Sukhoi company. In the documents, the drone is characterised as a “sixth-generation unmanned aerial vehicle”.
The Okhotnik’s design is based on the flying-wing scheme and incorporates use of composite materials and stealth coatings, making the drone low-observable in flight. It has a weight of about 20 tons and a wingspan around 65 feet (20 m). The drone is powered either by a single AL-31F turbofan, as used on the Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft, or by the improved AL-41F derivative installed on Su-35S fighters and Su-57 prototypes. Although the first prototype’s exhaust nozzle was conventional and could increase the drone’s radar signature, future upgrade could see improved exhaust as well as engine inlet as shown by a mock up at the 2019 MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon. The maximum speed of the drone is reportedly 1,000 km/h while carrying its payload internally. It is likely the Okhotnik was designed to act as a “loyal wingman” controlled by the Su-57. The aircraft bears some visual resemblance to RQ-170.
The Motor Design Bureau of the Ufa Motor-Building Production Association (part of the United Engine Corporation), which is engaged in developing an engine for the new drone earlier reported that the Okhotnik second version would be outfitted with a thruster with a new flat nozzle. As the company’s engineers explained, the flat nozzle produced by a 3D printer would reduce the drone’s signature for enemy heat-seeking missiles. A pilot of the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet would simultaneously coordinate the operations of four latest Okhotnik heavy strike drones. Moreover, a group of drones will most likely be controlled from a new Su-57 special two-seat version, it specified. During its first joint flight with a Su-57 fighter, the Okhotnik drone operated in automated mode in its full configuration, entering its aerial combat alert area. During the joint flight, the Su-57 and the Okhotnik tested expanding the fighter’s radar field and issuing target acquisition data for employing air-launched weapons, it specified.