Amid speculations that Russia may have started operating its S-70 Okhotnik heavy-strike stealth drone against Ukraine, a MiG-29 fighter plane and the Russian S-70 Okhotnik (‘Hunter’) attack drone were sighted flying in a formation at an unknown location.
In what was speculated to be a flight test, a video making the rounds on social media shows the flying wing-shaped drone soaring in front of a MiG-29. The video’s time and place have not been verified, and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has not officially acknowledged the footage.
Late last month, there were rumors that the stealth attack drone was flying in the Ukrainian skies. Some Ukrainian Telegram channels published photographs of the S-70 Okhotnik heavy strike, sparking interest among military watchers.
Later, reports suggested that the S-70 was allegedly flying in the Sumy region.
When the Ukrainian media reported explosions in Sumy and Kremenchuk, Poltava region, there were claims that the S-70 Okhotnik drone may have struck military facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) in the Sumy region.” However, these claims were not officially confirmed by Russia or Ukraine, which makes the recent video all the more intriguing.
As previously revealed by open-source information, two Russia Okhotnik prototypes have undergone flight testing, and two more are under construction/flight testing.
𝐑𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐲 ‘𝐇𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫’ 𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐤𝐲 !
Alleged test flight footage of Russian Sukhoi S-70 ‘Okhotnik’ heavy strike domestic UCAV accompanied by a MiG-29 fighter aircraft.#S70 #aircraft #UAV #Sukhoi #MiG29 #Russia #fighterjet #stealth… pic.twitter.com/VSOs2Fbq1A
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The video has managed to grab eyeballs as it shows the stealth drone flying in formation with the aging MiG-29 of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS). This is significant since the drone would eventually be flown together with the VKS stealth fighter, Su-57, as a loyal wingman drone.
A military historian and director of the Museum of Air Defense Forces, Yuri Knutov, was earlier quoted saying, “The Su-57 can control a swarm of Okhotnik drones, and this combination opens up great opportunities for solving strategic combat missions. The ‘Hunter’ is made in the same way as the Su-57. And in Ukraine, Su-57 aircraft solved combat missions and returned unnoticed.”
Okhotniks can fly under the command of a Su-57 fighter jet, according to repeated statements made by Russian officials in a manned-unmanned teaming format that the United States is also exploring. The US has planned to acquire at least a thousand such drones to fly alongside its F-35 and next-gen fighter jet.
In April 2021, the first deputy chairman of the Board of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, Andrey Yelchaninov, said, “These planes and drones can interact not only with each other but also in various types of combat formations. Within a very short timeframe, there will be a possibility to control several Okhotnik drones from the Su-57 cockpit.”
Writing for EurAsian Times, Indian Air Force veteran and military expert Squadron Leader Vijainder K. Thakur explained that the S-70 would be specifically crucial due to the doubts about the Su-57’s stealth characteristics.
“Unlike the US fighters, the Su-57 lacks the radio frequency stealth required to penetrate heavily contested airspace. The Su-57 is stealthy but not as stealthy as the US stealth fighters. However, using a combination of stealth and a capable sensor suite, the Su-57 can detect and engage the two US stealth fighters. In contrast to the Su-57, the Okhotnik has excellent stealth characteristics – RF low observable shaping and IR signature suppression – matching those of the F-22 and F-35,” Thakur explained.
After the recent video of the S-70 Okhotnik flying with MiG-29 went viral on social media, netizens, and military watchers speculate that flight testing is being conducted to eventually team the stealth drone up with the Su-57 Felon of the VKS. EurAsian Times could not independently verify these claims.
What Do We Know About The S-70 Okhotnik?
The Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik drone is expected to travel at a top speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour (kph) with a range of 6,000 kilometers, thanks to its AL-31 turbojet engine.
The Russian MoD stated that the drone includes features like electro-optical targeting, radio, and “other types of reconnaissance equipment.”
Weighing between 20 to 25 tons, the Okhotnik can also carry a decent weapon load. It can penetrate contested airspace undetected and destroy critical enemy targets. However, it cannot defend itself if ambushed by manned enemy fighters. The Su-57 and Okhotnik would be capable and versatile in the attack role.
In August 2019, the first S-70 prototype flew for the first time, and in September 2019, it completed a mission in formation with a Su-57 fighter jet. According to reports, during testing in January 2021, the drone used unguided 500-kilogram explosives thrown from its internal carry to destroy a target on the ground.
According to a report from January 2021, it performed its first live-fire test by dropping unguided bombs on a target at the Ashuluk training facility close to the Caspian Sea.
The S-70 Okhotnik has been planned to enter serial production and deliveries in 2024.
Russian officials have asserted on multiple occasions that the Su-57 and the Okhotnik team would either destroy significant strategic targets, such as NATO command centers and civilian-military targets, or clear the way for significant bombers which are capable of carrying the Kh-101 cruise missile or the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, of deploying their payload.
The First Deputy Director General of Rostec State Corporation, Vladimir Artyakov, bragged that no other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member has a UCAV system to compete with the Okhotnik.
The Okhotnik can enter fiercely defended enemy airspace, launch an independent strike, or transmit targeting data to a supporting Su-57 aircraft or missile battery. An Okhotnik could be significantly more efficient than cruise missiles in striking targets far beyond an enemy’s front line while operating under the guidance of a Su-57 fighter.
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