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Russia unveils Okhotnik heavy UAV

28 January 2019
Image of what is supposedly a prototype of the heavy Russian UAV known as Okhotnik (Hunter). Source: Name withheld

An image of what was purported to be a prototype of Russia's Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) began to circulate in Russian social media on 23 January, followed by three more images the next day.

The photos were likely taken by a plane spotter or spotters from close to the runway of Novosibirsk Aviation Plant (NAZ) named after V P Chkalov (part of the Sukhoi Company), also known as Yeltsovka airport.

The heavy UAV appearing in those images looks like a stealthy flying wing aircraft, although its conventional looking turbofan (likely of the AL-31/41 series) nozzle was unshrouded, which might eventually change as its development progresses. The UAV featured a single dorsal-mounted air-intake.

The size of the Kirovets K-700 heavy-tractor that was observed towing the UAV in a set of pictures from 24 January indicates a wingspan of 19 m. Three landing gear units, two single-wheel side, and one two-wheel frontally mounted observed on the heavy UAV appear to closely match those fitted to Russia's Su-57 next-generation multirole aircraft.

Given the UAV's size, its internal bay or bays should be able to carry most, if not all, of the latest generation missiles and munitions being developed for the Su-57 aircraft, likely including the recently announced hypersonic missile that is in development, the characteristics of which are reported to be similar to the Kinzhal's.

Design and development of the Okhotnik Udarno-Razvedivatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks (Unmanned Strike-Reconnaissance System) by Sukhoi is thought to have commenced in 2011. Also designated as the S-70, its take-off weight is reported to be about 20 tonnes, with a top speed of 1,000 km/h.

In July 2018 the TASS news agency quoted an unnamed defence industry source as saying the Okhotnik was to make its maiden flight later that year. The same report highlighted that the UAV made heavy use of composite materials and was treated with a radiation-absorbent (stealth) coating.

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