The Okhotnik stealth heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle is predicted to help Russia gain a great advantage on the future battlefield.
Stealth drone S-70 Okhotnik, nicknamed the Hunter, was designed by Russia to serve the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter in the role of “loyal wingman”. The UAV is about to show its full combat capabilities.
In what is claimed to be a milestone in its development, the S-70 has reportedly successfully completed its first precision strike tests. However, most of what we know about the advanced drone is based on whatever information is allowed to escape Russia by the Russian defense industry.
On May 28, Russian state media reported that the Okhotnik-B had completed a series of precision strike tests on ground targets. In keeping with its parallel development with the Su-57 Felon multirole fighter, the recent S-70 tests saw the drone employ missiles used by the Su-57 in its test strikes.
The source in Russia’s defense industry speaking with Russian state media additionally claimed that the drone had already demonstrated its ability to drop unguided bombs, which was later confirmed by video footage published by the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to this state media readout, the S-70 successfully struck a variety of targets in different weather conditions and times of day, some of which were “small and camouflaged.”
Russia’s S-70 drone is the most advanced drone currently under development by Russia’s defense industry, and correspondingly few details are available on the exact capabilities of this advanced drone. Powered by one Saturn Al-41F1 engine, the Okhotnik-B can reach a maximum speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour. The Okhotnik-B is also equipped with an internal weapons bay, which serves the S-70’s intended capabilities as a stealth drone.
The S-70 shares this engine with its Su-57 cousin, which is also being developed by the Russian design bureau Sukhoi. The Okhotnik-B’s development is closely linked to the Felon’s; the S-70 is designed to act as a so-called “loyal wingman” of the Su-57. This arrangement would allow the computer on board the Su-57 to coordinate the autonomous activity of several S-70s in combat. Such a relationship may not be specific to the two aircraft, as the new Project 23900 Ivan Rogov amphibious assault ship class is also designed to operate in tandem with four Okhotnik-Bs.
One of the biggest technical challenges in the development of the S-70 has been making the drone fully stealth-capable. The newest version of the drone, which was unveiled at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association in December 2021 saw many changes to the Okhotnik-B to promote its stealth capabilities, particularly a new nozzle for the drone’s rear exhaust designed with stealth in mind. Other external elements of the S-70, such as the air intakes, exhaust vents, and antennas were either removed or otherwise altered to further streamline the Okhotnik-B.
The contract to develop and build a “heavy attack drone” for the Russian armed forces was first signed by Sukhoi and the Russian government in 2011. However, it would not be until 2019 that the drone would have its first flight. Okhotnik may enter service in 2024. But that does not mean that it will be fully integrated with the Su-57 in loyal wingman role immediately, but only serve in ground attack mode independently.
Russia has many advantages when it comes to futuristic weapons systems, examples include hypersonic missiles, nuclear-powered torpedoes, intercontinental ballistic missiles and next-generation submarines. But due to having to implement too many ambitious projects and still facing a fierce war in Ukraine, will Russia’s military-industrial complex be able to put Okhotnik into mass production?
Russian media is famous for its excessive propaganda moves for its “unique” and “unrivaled” weapons, such as the T-14 Armata tank, the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer, or even the Su-57 stealth fighter, are all behind schedule. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the stealthy UAV S-70 Okhotnik will be ready for combat in 2024 and become a “game changer” as Moscow is claiming.