The first Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone should be delivered to the Russian military in 2024 after the Ministry of Defense demanded to speed up the experimental work on the upcoming unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

With the testing of the aircraft’s armament initially planned for 2024, the UCAV was supposed to enter service the following year. The deadline has now been reduced by a year. "We received an assignment from the Defense Ministry to speed up the experimental design work and maximally adjust the schedule in order to begin the deliveries already from 2024,” United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Head Yuri Slyusar said, as reported by TASS news agency. “That is why we are actively working with colleagues on this issue."

Russia’s own unmanned wingman program

Initially a MiG program, the S-70 was given to Sukhoi in 2011. The Okhotnik UAV is powered by an AL-31 turbojet engine and is equipped with electro-optical targeting, radio, and “other types of reconnaissance equipment,” according to the Defense Ministry. The demonstrator made its maiden flight on August 7, 2019. At the time the aircraft flew for 20 minutes and reached an altitude of 600 meters (1,970 feet).

The Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (Hunter) is way bigger than its Western counterparts. With 20 meters in wingspan and a length of 14 meters, its mass is supposedly around 20 tons (against 4.9 for the Dassault nEUROn and 6.3 for the Northrop Grumman X-47B). It is expected to fly at a speed of 1,000 km/h, for a range of 6,000 km. Its two internal bays should embark up to 2.8 tons of weapons.

The S-70 is supposed to eventually operate in collaboration with the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet to extend the latter’s radar field. It should also be able to use its stealth abilities to designate long-range targets for its leader aircraft without being detected. In September 2019, the UCAV made its first sortie alongside the fighter jet.

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The Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone made its first flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jet.