The Russian S-70 Okhotnik is a long-range, stealth combat drone. The Sukhoi S-70 is capable of performing solo missions and can also work in coordination with fifth-generation Russian aircraft such as the Su-57.
According to the latest reports, a new prototype of the Okhotnik unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has been revealed recently. It features a stealthier nozzle configuration which is said to increase the drone’s low observability and combat efficiency.
Even though the newly revealed prototype is yet to fly and has to undergo a list of evaluations, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is confident that all evaluations will be completed by next year and will soon receive an order from the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS).
The new flying-wing UCAV was unveiled on December 14 at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association, or NAPO, in southwestern Siberia. This is where drones are manufactured on behalf of the Sukhoi Design Bureau. The unveiling ceremony of this UCAV was attended by Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexei Krivoruchko.
“The roll-out of the UAV marks the completion of the assembly of the product as a whole, equipping it with all the necessary onboard equipment in accordance with the requirements for the aircraft, and the transition to complex ground tests to prepare for the first flight”, Krivoruchko said.
According to earlier reports, the Okhotnik was supposed to be powered by a variant of the AL-41F turbofan engine. The same engine is equipped on the Su-35 Flanker multirole fighter as well as on previous versions of the Su-57 Felon stealth aircraft.
While it is not yet clear if the new prototype is powered by the same engine, the engine exhaust has been entirely rebuilt, with a new flat-jet nozzle in order to reduce the UCAV’s infrared and radar signatures, The War Zone report claimed.
Here comes S-70 Okhotnik drone equipped with a flat jet nozzle. This aviation complex has a reduced radar signature and will receive a new ground control post. pic.twitter.com/SjMF82QgH6
— UAC Russia (@UAC_Russia_eng) December 14, 2021
The new stealthier variant of the Okhotnik was anticipated earlier when a model of the revised design was displayed at the International Aviation and Space Salon, or MAKS, outside Moscow in August 2019.
This was the same time when the first prototype of the Okhotnik had conducted its maiden flight, Aviacionline reported. Even though images of the nozzle design have not been revealed by United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the maker of Sukhoi aircraft — glimpses of the same have been noticed in some news segments broadcasted by Russian television, Aerotime Hub reported.
“The work on ‘Okhotnik’ is one of the key directions for Sukhoi and UAC”, Yuri Slyusar, the general director of the UAC, said at the ceremony, according to a press release published by Russian state conglomerate, Rostec. “Today we are doing our best to finish testing [the S-70] and start the serial production.”
Krivoruchko’s visit to Novosibirsk further confirmed that the S-70 Okhotnik is going to operate alongside manned aircraft as well as independently, either for solo missions or as a part of a larger formation.
“Okhotnik is a highly intelligent system capable of solving a wide range of tasks individually, in a group and together with manned aircraft,” Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti quoted the deputy defense minister as saying.
“Technologies tested on the prototypes will be used in the creation of other promising aircraft systems — both manned and unmanned,” Krivoruchko added.
Yuri Slyusur had previously described the Okhotnik, the Russian word for ‘Hunter’, as an “attack heavy drone [sic] with unprecedented capabilities, having the largest combat flight range, the widest range of weapons [and] the broadest range of equipment”.
There have been reports of the Okhotnik conducting test-flights. While the details are still unclear, the UCAV had been reportedly flight-tested with some sort of air-to-air missiles in December 2020, The EurAsian Times had reported at that time.
According to RIA Novosti, the deputy minister also had a meeting with NAPO executives for discussing future state contracts. It is believed that the Okhotnik would be in service with the Russian Air Force by 2024.