Skip to main content

By Marina Dierks -- Marina Dierks is a Warrior Maven Fellow, Expert Russian Linguist and Russia Analyst. A native speaker, who has lived in Russia for over 20 years, she has trained the US military in the Russian language and has written analysis on Russian affairs, Russia’s ethnic and religious issues, history and culture. A linguist with experience in intelligence collection, analysis and interpretation, Marina has also supported the US Coast Guard Auxiliary as a Flotilla Staff Officer for several years.

Russia claims the new flying prototype of its stealth combat drone is a paradigm changing drone which can be invisible to radar systems and will be fully autonomous. Part of the breakthrough in the development of Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik (“Hunter) is the introduction of artificial intelligence elements into the control loop of the machine.

Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B first prototype in 2020.

Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B first prototype in 2020.

Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik 

“From our point of view, artificial intelligence is the ability of a machine to make decisions in a rapidly changing environment without operator intervention,” said Nikolai Dolzhenkov, chief designer of Kronstadt JSC, a private Russian defense contractor working on Okhotnik project. “The second absolutely necessary trait and ability is the ability to self-learn using one’s own machine experience. That is, the program should be one that allows you to constantly improve your skills and abilities, namely software ones. Moreover, these skills are not reduced to the skills of a separate mechanism, a separate machine, a single aircraft, but it collects, this program collects the general experience of the entire fleet – and thus the experience of everyone becomes the experience of everyone.”[1]

In the Main Flight Test Center, where the first prototype of S-70 allegedly showed the ability to self-read maps and strike at a clearly defined target, hide under the belly of the escort aircraft observing the minimum vertical interval turning into an imperceptible point on the radar screens, become the leader and go ahead of the group for additional reconnaissance, do self-search and adjustment of the target location, transmitting its new or changed coordinates on the ground to the accompanying fighter-bombers.

According to TASS.ru the previous test flights the drone "flew in an automated mode in full configuration with access to the duty zone." The Ministry of Defense explained that during the event, interaction between the drone and the Su-57 "to expand the fighter's radar field and target designation for the use of aviation weapons" was successfully worked out. Taxiing, takeoff run, acceleration and stop at the end of the strip were performed by the “Hunter” completely autonomously. TASS reports that according to a source in the military-industrial complex Okhotnik is expected to perform in a fully autonomous mode.

Sukhoi Company is planning to achieve the maximum unification of the radio-electronic equipment of the 'Hunter' and the autonomization of drone navigation through the widespread use of deep neural networks[2]. The on-board radio and optical electronic equipment of the S-70 includes an information and automatic control system, interface equipment with general object equipment, a system for monitoring and diagnosing on-board equipment, as well as an inertial-satellite navigation system.

Sukhoi Hunter-B is a Russian sixth generation stealth heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle capable of performing for both reconnaissance and strike missions. The budget for Hunter design is estimated at 24 million dollars. According to Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of a state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corp., the Russian Ministry of Defense will begin to receive batch production and delivery of these UAVs to the troops in 2023.

On 28 February 2021, it was reported that the Okhotnik will be used aboard the future Project 23900 Ivan Rogov amphibious assault ships, capable of carrying 4 Okhotnik drones, for reconnaissance and strike missions[3]. Hunter-B is designed to be used aboard amphibious assault ships and will carry guided missiles and guided and unguided bombs in the internal payload compartment, as well as on underwing hardpoints. In particular, a powerful and high-precision glide bombs 9-A-7759 "Grom". Vladimir Putin has claimed that the combat payload of Hunter is 6 tons.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

Allegedly, the maximum combat range of the drone is 3.5 thousand km, the maximum speed is 1,000 km / h, and the flight altitude is up to 10.5 km (or 18 km according to Vladimir Putin). The footage posted by the Russian TV program "Vesti Nedeli" shows the Russian attack drone S-70 "Okhotnik" destroying a target with an unguided aerial 500-kilogram bomb kept in its inner fuselage compartment[4]. Without refueling, the UAV can be in the air for more than a day. The combat payload of this large drone has been reported from 2.8 to 8 tons.

Working in conjunction with Su-57 “Okhotnik” will allegedly be able to perform reconnaissance and distraction functions and conduct electronic warfare. This drone was made according to the “flying wing” scheme using materials and coatings that greatly reduce radar detection. Its full-fledged flat engine nozzle adds to reduce its visibility in order to conduct missions invisible to heat-seeking missiles. This large and heavy strike drone is able to penetrate into enemy airspace, interfere with the operation of radars and signal transmission, thus opening a "window" for missiles and manned fighters.

The drone’s first test was conducted in August 2019 under operator control and later automatically with the fifth generation Su-57 fighter. Russia will begin testing a second version in July.

[1] tvzvezda-ru.turbopages.org

[2] https://topwar-ru.turbopages.org/turbo/topwar.ru/s/153022-dolgozhdannyj-proryv-chem-na-samom-dele-javljaetsja-ohotnik.html

[3] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_S-70_Okhotnik-B

[4] https://avia-pro.net/news/rossiyskiy-tyazhyolyy-bespilotnik-s-70-ohotnik-tochneyshim-udarom-500-kilogrammovoy-bomby

Marina Dierks

By Marina Dierks -- Marina Dierks is a Warrior Maven Fellow, Expert Russian Linguist and Russia Analyst. A native speaker, who has lived in Russia for over 20 years, she has trained the military in the Russian language and has written analysis on Russian affairs, Russia’s ethnic and religious issues, history and culture. A linguist with experience in intelligence collection, analysis and interpretation, Marina has also supported the US Coast Guard Auxiliary as a Flotilla Staff Officer for several years.