The Russian troops will get their hands on Okhotnik (S-70 or Hunter) heavy drones that can operate under the control of the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter, in 2024.
“Okhotnik deliveries to the troops are planned to begin as early as in 2024. These planes (Su-57s) and drones can interact not only with each other, but also in various types of combat formations. Within a very short timeframe, there will be a possibility to control several Okhotnik drones from the Su-57 cockpit,” Andrey Yelchaninov, the first deputy chairman of the Board of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, was quoted as saying by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a newspaper published by the Government of Russia, on Tuesday.
Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces Lt. Gen. Sergei Dronov said last year that during the development of UAVs, special attention is paid to integrating them into a single system with manned aircraft.
The Okhotnik has been developed to function as a "loyal wingman" to the Su-57 stealth fighter where the manned fighter will control several Okhotnik drones which will in turn engage the enemy without putting the manned aircraft in harm’s way.
In December, the Okhotnik conducted test launches of air-to-air guided missiles creating a new role for it as a fighter-interceptor to accompany the Su-57. In the following month, the aircraft released a bomb from its internal bay hitting a ground target accurately at the Ashuluk range as part of flight tests.
A source told Russian media that "the newest sighting and navigation system installed on the Okhotnik makes it possible to use free-falling ammunition with an accuracy approaching that of a high-precision guided weapon."
The Okhotnik, developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, is to become the first heavy drone with shock functions in the Russian Aerospace Forces. Its first flight took place on August 3, 2019. The drone is made according to the "flying wing" scheme with the use of materials that reduce radar signature.
The strike UAV has a length of 19m, a wingspan of 14m, its take-off weight is 20 tons, and its maximum speed is about 1000 kmph. The first flight of the Hunter took place on August 3, 2020 and lasted more than 20 minutes.
The stealth drone is capable of autonomously hitting ground stationary and restrictedly mobile targets with previously known coordinates, including when receiving external target designation in the air.