On 14th December, the Russians finally rolled out the first production prototype of the state-of-the-art S-70 ‘Okhotnik’ (‘Hunter’) heavy strike drone at the Novosibirsk Aviation Enterprise. The deployable UCAV is ready for the debut flight said the Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko said on Tuesday.
“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 deputy defense minister said.
The heavy drone is intended to play the role of a light multipurpose fighter. The Hunter can conduct reconnaissance, designate targets, bomb ground targets, fight air attack weapons, and of course patrol. It is designed to solve tasks independently and as part of mixed formations together with manned vehicles.
A UCAV full of holes
Russia first flew the S-70 Othotnik on August 3, 2019, which lasted for about 20 minutes. During the same year, the drone flew its first loyal wingman test flight with the Russian 5th generation stealth fighter Su-57 for about 30-minutes
The tests were met with awe and ridicule. A Chinese news source Sina posted views of the so-called experts stating the UCAV is full of holes.
The commentator from the Celestial Empire claimed (loosely translated) “there are too many holes on the surface of the drone. They are needed for the normal operation of the jet engine of this apparatus. But with so many air intakes, the drone will simply glow on the radar screens, turning into a huge target, convenient for destruction. So there is supposedly no need to talk about any invisibility technologies here.”
The prototype was not stealthy due to its design, but the American’s compared the design of the Hunter with the design of the F-117 Nighthawk, which is no longer produced, but still in operation in the US, as well as with the RQ-170 Sentinel.
S-70 Othotnik drone
The flat nozzled sixth-generation Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B UCAV (former Mikoyan Skat UCAV) is a product of a joint efforts of MiG and Sukhoi design houses.
The UCAV features stealth technologies and a flying wing design (as it lacks a tail), that reduces its radar signature. The Russian media says the UCAV has a take-off weight of 20 tonnes and can develop a speed of around 1,000 km/h. The drone’s serial deliveries to the troops are due to begin in 2024.
The drone flies with a variant of the AL-41F1 power plant which raises the Su-57 into the sky, but with significant differences. The single-engine drone will simply switch on to the idle speed in the case of the failure of the engine’s automation and hence not crash due to an engine failure. Since the UCAV is meant for patrol’s and not manoeuvred intensively, the engine does not require an afterburner. The UCAV is designed to fly at subsonic speeds and hence the efficiency of the Russian engine will see an improvement.