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Russia’s Stealthy Strike UAV. Deadlier Than Expected

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Russia's Stealthy Strike UAV. Deadlier Than Expected

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

Introduction

While overall the Russian Armed Forces display remarkable effectiveness and demonstrated a wide range of modern weapons, a number of gaps in Russia’s arsenal are also evident. Arguably the largest one is the absence of attack UAVs of any kind, comparable to either the propeller-driven Predators and Reapers intended for operations in a benign air defense environment, or heavier platforms intended for high-threat environments comparable to the US X-47B UCAS or France’s Neuron. It is therefore no surprise that there was an upsurge in reports of UAVs of various classes under development in Russia, up to and including the S-70 Okhotnik-B, under development by OKB Sukhoi, whose first flight is planned for 2019.

Design

Okhotnik closely follows the blended-fuselage flying wing configuration used by the other heavy strike UAV’s mentioned above.  Like the X-47B, It is powered by a single turbofan engine with an intake on top of the fuselage, and its design most likely includes an internal ordnance bay for a variety of guided and unguided munitions. Most published estimates of Okhotnik’s capabilities suggest take-off weight in the vicinity of 20 metric tons and a top speed of around 1000km/hr. Like the X-47B, the combination of relatively small size and stealth would allow the Okhotnik to carry out airstrikes against heavily defended targets and survive even advanced air defenses. While a heavy, stealthy strike UAV is not exactly expendable, it is certainly more likely to be risked than a manned combat aircraft that costs several times more than the UAV. Heavy strike UAVs are therefore seen as a complement to scarcer and more expensive manned aircraft in situations where heavy air defenses are present.

Capabilities

Nevertheless, one probably should not expect the Okhotnik to be a carbon-copy of the Neuron or the X-47B, and for all the similarities there are also differences. The X-47B design emphasizes stealth including in the infrared spectrum, with an evident effort to reduce the heat of its turbofan exhaust, with the UAV being capable of sustaining only high subsonic speeds. By contrast, while the Okhotnik is officially described as having the top speed of only 920km/hour, its design is dominated by the powerful AL-41F afterburning turbofan, suggesting the Okhotnik might actually be capable of supersonic speeds and even of sustaining supersonic cruise without the need for afterburner, an important characteristic of 5th generation combat aircraft. In addition, on-board sensors aboard the X-47B are fairly limited, while the photos of the Okhotnik clearly show a nose radome, suggesting an on-board radar.

Given that the Okhotnik is being developed by the same design bureau that produced the Su-57, with that aircraft’s technologies being incorporated into its design in order for the two machines to be able to operate as a team, it stands to reason the fully developed Okhotnik will be capable of supersonic cruise—a necessary capability if it is to operate as part of the same mission package as the Su-57—and of air-to-air engagements.  Unlike the F-35 which is primarily an attack aircraft with a secondary air-to-air capability, the Su-57’s main mission is air combat, both within and beyond visual range. By the same token, while US combat UAVs of the last couple of decades have been designed exclusively for ground strike missions while under the control of a land-based operator from a remote location, Russia’s defense priorities are sufficiently different from the US and NATO to warrant different expectations for the Okhotnik. Given the need to fend off attacks by vastly larger numbers of F-22 and F-35s, the outnumbered Su-57 force would benefit from stealthy, supercruising Okhotniks with air-to-air sensors and weapons that could be vectored against the adversary’s stealth aircraft while the Su-57s themselves remain out of the range of enemy weapons.

Conclusion

The recently published information on Russian military procurement plans plainly indicate the very high priority being afforded to maintaining the ability to wage air and air defense operations against a technologically sophisticated adversary. This emphasis is a reasonable response to the US plans to rapidly ramp-up F-35 deliveries both to its own military and to its allies. But even with that emphasis, the cost of 5th generation fighters is such that Russia cannot possibly hope to match US and NATO in terms of numbers, and probably cannot afford the development of a small 5th-generation fighter that could be produced in larger numbers than the Su-57. But if a “hi–lo” mix of platforms comparable to the Su-27—MiG-29 or F-15—F-16 or even F-22—F-35 is to be maintained by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the “lo” part of the mix could well be filled by an unmanned platform.

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  • Tudor Miron

    “powerful AL-41F afterburning turbofan which proved too large for installation on the Su-57″(c) Su-35S is using AL-41F1C which is a bit of downgraded version of AL-41F1 that is used on Su-57 as “first phase engine”. They don’t differ in size shape and main difference is that AL-41F1C is using digital-mechanical engine management system and AL-41F1 has fully digital system.

    • Thank you for the feedback. You are right about the size. We updated the text and will consider releasing a short video update on this issue.
      Sincerely yours,
      SF Team

      • Tudor Miron

        Thank you. Well done. Considering that text is updated I would like to ask you to remove my post as not relevant to current text.

    • Prince Teutonic

      Izdeliye 30 is the second stage engine for Su-57 which is currenty in testing phase…

  • Sephy

    Another dump analysis by southfront.

    • Nosferatu

      why is it so dumb?

    • #’~A*QXm(>NRmm]w?dU4vXZ

      So why do you keep reading and making dumb comments?

  • rudy

    The Hunter is perfect !

  • Kelli Hernandez

    F-35, you mean the the US Tesla of the skies? The biggest BOONDOGGLE and utter failure requiring billions in maintenance making it a pain in the ass. It’s not a wonder even Germany does not want them.
    Russia might be behind in the amount of planes but their innovation and upgrade is far superior to the US.
    Moscow puts it’s money into innovation and upgrade whereas the DofD budget, filled with waste abuse fraud and theft and who could not pass an audit last year, puts it’s money into the pockets of an elite saturated in the wealth of the American taxpayer and theft of other countries resources.
    Russia & China together means the US loses any major military conflict.

    • #’~A*QXm(>NRmm]w?dU4vXZ

      That’s it in a nutshell. The psychopaths in Washington only dare take on far weaker opponents than themselves, just like the Zi0Nazi garbage dump.

    • Harry Smith

      Here is a quote from the “beacon of freedom” – Blumberg:
      “Russia and China are now cooperating on military exercises and arms sales, energy deals and economic ties, efforts to weaken international norms surrounding human rights, and many other fronts. This cooperation better enables each country to challenge the U.S. China, for instance, has improved its anti-access/area denial military capabilities by buying (and, in some cases, copying) Russian military technology. Even where Russia and China are not cooperating directly — such as in supporting authoritarian regimes and undermining democratic governance abroad — their efforts have mutually reinforcing effects.”
      https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-14/u-s-spies-china-and-russia-are-getting-closer
      A very interesting article, by the way. Of course if you’ll ignore some propagandistic BS.

      • Attrition47

        Pardon me for that sound of hollow laughter. ;O)

    • Kim Jong Don

      Watching AFN, they’re always preaching about OPSEC, fraud, waste and abuse. Yet, the higher ups doing the exact opposite, how ironic.

  • wwinsti

    I wish Russia had started on this 10 year ago, but it took Syria for the military command to see the light. Can you imagine a Russian anti access area denial zone networked with hundreds of armed drones?

  • JPH

    “vastly larger numbers of F-22 and F-35s”??

    F22 production 187 and only 120-130 with operational squadrons. Of that 120 some 20 were quite possibly damaged by a hurricane last year because those 20 could not be moved to another base which tells you something about readiness rates. The damage sustained by those 20 has not been made public. There probably never will be ‘vastly superior numbers’ of F22.

    The F35 only entered its Operational Test and Evaluation phase in December 2018 and was never designed for a air superiority role. The F35 as a stealthy light light strike bomber simply can’t hold its own an requires the F22 riding shotgun.

    So focusing on A2D2 with S400 and air superiority with SU35 and SU57 makes sense for the Russians.

  • vladput

    Russia’s Stealthy Strike UAV. Deadlier Than Expected

    so, it is able to kill also wolves, not only rabbits?

    • Mike

      Shut the fuck up solomon kupec.

    • Sukhoi-35

      ur face and ur girlfriend’s face is so ugly it can kill not just rabbits but all of wildlife animals. so ugly it make zombies die.

  • Jacob Wohl’s Nose

    this is laughable – even I am bigger. and im a nose. put wings on me and i’ll be the real strike UAV.

  • Miroslav Beran

    Folks, very soon, UAVs will have unlimited range tjanks to LENR power technology

  • Kim Jong Don

    SU-57: How do you describe a fat woman trying to throw a hand grenade?
    F-22: Dunno, what?
    SU57: F-35!
    F-22: Hey! That’s my sister!
    F-15: I hate that fat bitch!!

  • potcracker777

    as usual the typical useless bs.
    Again.
    In a nuclear war between east and west.
    ALL ARE DEAD.
    period!!!
    so Keep on talking about f-22 su-57 f-8888 or su 78373 lol