Originally appeared at Izvestia; Translated by Monalita exclusively for SouthFront
Russian Aerospace Forces will receive a “flock” of unmanned fighters. Izvestia newspaper were told by sources of the military-industrial complex and the military department that three more heavy UAVs S-70 “Okhotnik” will be built in the next two years. They will join the test program for the only prototype currently available. The Ministry of Defense has decided on the format for the application of the latest drone.
The vehicle will have serious striking capabilities, making it truly versatile, experts say. For example, as a fighter, the device will be capable of hitting targets from a long distance, the sources added.
The plan and the work schedule on the new S-70 drone have already been approved, the military-industrial complex sources told Izvestia.
According to the addendum, which the publication managed to get acquainted with, the assembly plant should receive a set of parts made of polymer composite materials for the drone’s airframe in the last quarter of the year. In the first half of 2021, two more sets will arrive. The cost of one is 286 million rubles.
Three new vehicles will be built under a new government contract. The Ministry of Defense signed it with the company Sukhoi at the end of last year after the successful completion of research work on “Okhotnik”, sources in the military-industrial complex told Izvestia. It is also expected that these three UAVs will differ from the prototype in appearance. They have been modified to reduce radar visibility, sources added. One of the vehicles will remain on the ground. It is used for resource testing. The other two will become flight models.
Initially, the plan was to complete the development work by the end of 2025, and strike testing with various weapons was supposed to take place in 2023-2024. But in early August, while at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the head of the United Aircraft Building Corporation UAC, Yuri Slyusar, said that the military department had asked to speed up the process as much as possible in order to start delivering the latest technology to the troops as soon as 2024.
As previously reported by Izvestia newspaper , in the summer, Sukhoi insured the prototype of the S-70 in the amount of 1.3 billion rubles. Separately, the ground control post was estimated at 145 million rubles. It is estimated that after the drone’s serial production the amount will be reduced to about 1 billion. “The S-70 prototype has already worked intensively while testing in tandem with the Su-57”, said military expert Vladislav Shurygin. Its dimensions, as well as the engine power, allow you to install a full-fledged radar and an optical location station on it. But a heavy drone is unlikely to become a “clean” fighter. All modern aircraft of this class have long turned into multipurpose vehicles that can destroy targets in air, sea and land.
The carrying capacity of the “Okhotnik” allows it to carry not only many long-range air-to-air weapons, but also heavy bombs and cruise missiles designed for attacking ground targets. By its design, the vehicle was originally created for high-intensity conflict operations, for breaking through powerful air defense and strikes against strategic targets, the expert recalled.
The Road to Sky
The S-70 “Okhotnik” is the largest unmanned aerial vehicle developed in Russia. The 20-ton aircraft is designed according to the “flying wing” scheme with extensive use of polymer composite materials to facilitate the design and reduce the visibility of radars. The carrying capacity of the S-70 reaches 6 tons, and its radar visibility is even lower than that of the Russian fifth-generation fighter Su-57. Today UAVs of this class are being developed only in the United States and China.
“Okhotnik” research work was initiated in 2011. The main executor of the project became the Sukhoi company. The development of the machine was carried out in an atmosphere of strict secrecy. Even its appearance was unknown. The “Okhotnik” prototype was openly presented only in 2018, and its first flight took place on August 2, 2019. A month later, the Ministry of Defense announced the start of joint flights of S-70 and the manned Su-57. At the same time, the UAV expanded the fighter’s radar field of view with its sensors and carried out target designation for its long-range aircraft weapons.
The plan for the future is that a drone will be able to operate not only under human control, but also completely autonomously using elements of artificial intelligence. The device will have a satellite ground link, which will make its range limited only by fuel supply. It has not yet been established whether it has the ability to refuel in flight, like modern manned aircraft.
A new version of the AL-41F1 fighter engine – Product 117BD – has been specifically developed for equipping the S-70 by the UEC – Ufa Engine-Building Production Association. It will provide the vehicle with a speed that is close to the speed of sound. In 2019, a model of the unmanned “Okhotnik ” was presented which had a flat engine nozzle instead of the usual round one. According to calculations, such a design should reduce the visibility of the jet drone.
In addition to the S-70, two more large strike UAVs are being developed in our country. The most lightweight of them, Orion, weighing 1 ton, has already been put into service and tested in Syria. In the spring of this year, the military received a set of three serial drones. The larger Altius, weighing 7 tons, is capable of carrying heavy guided bombs and is currently in the testing phase. At present, the Russian Armed Forces have more than 2 thousand unmanned aircraft systems at their disposal. Most of them are designed for reconnaissance missions and belong to the light class. Their take-off weight does not exceed 18 kg.
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