‘Siberian’ S-70 ‘Hunter’ finishes trials, it enters to service
State testing for the S-70 Okhotnik unmanned stealth fighter is expected to finish by the end of 2023, preparing for mass production and military delivery by 2024, according to an anonymous source. The aircraft, first seen in July 2018, will assist in various roles, including breaching enemy airspace and air superiority missions.
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The aircraft is said to have internal weapons bays similar to the Su-57 fighter, allowing it to use the same beyond-visual-range weaponry. This includes R-77M air-to-air missiles and Kh-59MK2 radar-evading air-to-surface missiles.
Given their stealth abilities and lower projected costs, Okhotnik fighters are expected to enhance forces using next-generation manned aircraft. Despite delays in service entry, an anticipated production increase should enable the delivery of 12-16 new airframes to the Air Force in 2023.
Russia aims to classify the Su-57 as a ‘5+ generation’ fighter by adding numerous advanced technologies. The integration of drone ‘wingman’ aircraft is seen as essential for the future of warfare. The Su-57’s competitors, the Chinese J-20 and the American F-35, also plan to use ‘wingman’ drones. The drone technology is also key to the Chinese and American sixth-generation fighter programs.
The initial prototype airframes of the Okhotnik were criticized for their limited stealth abilities, but recent prototypes have shown improvement. This suggests that the Okhotnik could potentially be among the world’s most stealthy combat aircraft of its size.
S-70 Okhotnik design
The Okhotnik drone is a marvel of modern aeronautics, taking inspiration from the flying-wing design and fostering innovation with the use of composite materials and stealth coatings. These elements grant the drone a low-observable profile during flight. Weighing approximately 20 tons and boasting a wingspan of nearly 65 feet (20 m), the Okhotnik is a formidable presence in the sky.
The power behind this formidable drone can be attributed to either a single AL-31F turbofan, similar to the one used in the Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft, or the advanced AL-41F derivative found in Su-35S fighters and Su-57 prototypes. The first prototype of the Okhotnik featured a conventional exhaust nozzle, which could potentially increase the drone’s radar signature. However, potential upgrades showcased at the 2019 MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon suggest the possibility of an improved exhaust system and engine inlet in future models.
With its payload housed internally, the Okhotnik can reach impressive maximum speeds of up to 1,000 km/h. It is plausible that the drone was engineered to function as a “loyal wingman”, operating under the control of the Su-57. Interestingly, the aircraft bears a visual resemblance to the RQ-170.
There has been speculation that Russian engineers may have had access to an RQ-170 captured by Iranians, which could have influenced Okhotnik’s design. However, it’s worth noting that a similar flying-wing design, the Mikoyan Skat, has been in development since 2005. The Okhotnik represents further development by Sukhoi of this original MiG design. The second prototype of the Okhotnik notably received a flat jet nozzle.
S-70 spotted over Ukraine
The Russian S-70 Okhotnik, a heavy-strike stealth drone, is suspected to have made its combat debut in the Ukraine conflict. This revelation came to the fore when photographs of the drone in Ukrainian airspace were shared by Ukrainian telegram channels and subsequently emphasized by Turkish media. The drone was reportedly sighted operational in the Sumy region.
Analysts are conjecturing that the drone might have been deployed against Ukrainian military installations in the Sumy region, thereby introducing a new facet to the ongoing conflict.
Adding to the intrigue, Ukrainian media reported hearing explosions in Sumy and Kremenchuk in the Poltava region on June 27. This led to widespread speculation that these might be the unprecedented effects of the Okhotnik drone’s operations.
Is there any truth to these speculations?
An image of a drone, shared via the Mash Telegram Channel, appears to depict Russia’s Okhotnik [Hunter] drone. Reports indicate that there are currently two of these drones undergoing flight testing.
According to information from Janes, which cites RIA Novosti, the S-70B Okhotnik successfully tested precision-guided munitions [PGMs] against ground targets on May 28, 2022. This drone executed an air-to-surface missile launch, analogous to the Sukhoi Su-57.
Janes further suggests that the missile deployed could be the Kh-59Mk2 standoff cruise missile, an evolution from the Kh-59-series heavy tactical missile. The Kh-59Mk2 is estimated to be capable of reaching targets at least 150 miles away, carrying a 500lb warhead. Its design allows for multiple configurations.
Back in February 2020, Izvestia reported that the Grom [Thunder] 9-A-7759 glide bomb has been integrated with the Okhotnik, enabling the drone to transport four Groms in its internal bomb bay. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense has remained silent on this report.
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