On November 22nd, a photograph was shared online, showing a S-70 Okhotnik-B (Hunter-B), presumably the very first prototype demonstrator of the Russian heavy reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicle.
The photograph was taken back in October at the 929th V.P. Chkalov State Flight Test Center of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in Akhtubinsk.
It is, as can be seen, next to a Russian Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet.
After a short lull in news, back in October, the Sukhoi company posted on the public procurement website information about the tender for the creation of a ground control center (NPU-70) to ensure the development of the S-70 Okhotnik-B strike UAV.
In accordance with the tender application, it is planned to allocate 2.25 billion rubles (approx. $30 million) for this work by September 30th, 2025. The documents indicate that the NPU-70 developer must take part in the manufacture of the third and fourth prototypes of the “Okhotnik”. Back then, it was confirmed that one drone has been built.
It is, almost entirely certain that it is the drone on the photo.
According to the draft contract, two prototypes of the NPU-70 for the development of the “Okhotnik” should be handed over to the customer in mid-2021, the third in January 2022.
Preliminary state testing of products is planned to be completed by the end of 2023, and the full volume of GSE is to be completed by October 2025, after which it is planned to start organizing mass production.
Also, the public procurement portal published data from several more tenders and already concluded agreements under the same state contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense – the total cost of these works exceeds 2 billion rubles.
All contracts are due in September 2025. Thus, more than 4 billion rubles will be spent on the continuation of work on the creation of the heavy attack drone S-70 “Okhotnik”.
The S-70 Okhotnik is Russia’s first heavy strike drone. On August 3rd, 2019, it took to the skies for the first time.
According to “Interfax-AVN”, in August 2020, the head of the UAC, Yuri Slyusar, said that on the instructions of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the development of the “Okhotnik” would be accelerated, and deliveries to the troops should begin in 2024. Prior to that, it was planned to start serial deliveries from 2025.
According to Slyusar, this is “a drone with unprecedented capabilities, the largest combat radius, the widest range of weapons, the widest range of equipment.”
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Okhotnik’s payload was 6 tons, the flight range was about 6,000 km, and the height was 18 km.
According to open sources, its takeoff weight is 20 tons, making it the heaviest drone currently in development. The dimensions of the “Okhotnik” (length – 19 m, wingspan – 14 m) are comparable to the parameters of the Su-57.
The photograph also provides some insight into that, as the drone appears quite bulky and imposing.
The UAV has a flying wing design. Outwardly, the drone resembles the American B-2 strategic bomber. Although the drone is slightly inferior in terms of stealth to the US aviation, it is distinguished by its high speed and maneuverability.
These are the most important characteristics, since the S-70 was developed as an addition to the Russian Su-57 fighter. The maximum range of the UAV is 4,800 kilometers, and the speed can reach up to one thousand km/h. The Okhotnik has a lot of free space in the fuselage, which can be used for storing fuel. Such characteristics allow the UAV to accompany the Su-57.
If necessary, the S-70 will fly in front of the fighter to interfere with the enemy’s anti-aircraft weapons. The UAV will become a distraction and a hindrance to air defense systems.
Earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russian anti-drone systems are more effective than foreign ones. The advantage of the complexes has been proven back in Syria.