The Russian stealth, unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) program has made significant progress, with the country’s military recently conducting a series of flight tests of the Okhotnik heavy attack drone.
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While the exact details of the tests are not yet known, it’s considered to be a major step for the Okhotnik project, before its formal induction in 2024.
According to the Russian media outlet RIA Novosti, the tests took place at the Ashuluk training ground in the form of a fighter-interceptor with simulated air-to-air missiles.
The dummy missiles carried real infrared and radar homing seeker heads and associated electronics, having all characteristics of a missile except for an engine and a warhead.
The Ashuluk range is located about 130 km north of Astrakhan in southwest Russia and operated by the 185th Combat Training and Combat Application Center, which is tasked with operational and tactics training for the Russian aerospace forces and air defense units. Its training includes combat simulations, including aggressor aircraft, encompassing modern electronic warfare environment.
“From the airstrip of the military airfield of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Combat Training and Combat Application Center at the Ashuluk training range, the Okhotnik performed several flights with functional simulators of guided air-to-air missiles. In the combat version, such missiles are designed to destroy other aircraft,” RIA Novosti said quoting military sources.
The S-70 ‘Okhotnik’
This Okhotnik is one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Russian aerospace companies Sukhoi and MiG to develop stealth, heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle capable of carrying out strikes using its internal weapons load.
While similar drones are being designed globally, like the Dassault nEUROn and the RQ-170 (already operational with the United States since 2007), the Russian S-70 is a ‘6th-generation’ aircraft project and carries technologies used on its 5th-generation Su-57 fighter jet.
One prototype aircraft is undergoing extensive trials and made its first taxiing, speeding, and ground-based tests in 2018 in fully autonomous mode at NAPO plant runway, and had reportedly achieved a maximum speed of 200 km/hr.
The aircraft made its maiden flight on August 3, 2019. It flew for about 20 minutes at an altitude of 600 meters above Chkalov State Flight Test Center in Akhtubinsk and made several circles around the airfield. On August 7, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video of the first flight.
The Okhotnik weighs 20 tons and can reach a near-supersonic speed of 1,000 km/hour while carrying its payload internally.