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Russia Announces First Armed Test of Heavy Strike Stealth ‘Hunter’ Drone

The combat drone is expected to be handed over to the Russian defense forces by 2024.

The Russian heavy strike stealth drone, Okhotnik, or Hunter, has reportedly flown with simulated air-to-air missiles for the first time.

Moscow is developing Okhotnik to fly with its fifth-generation Su-57 fighter to complement the aircraft during missions, providing it with enhanced combat capabilities and protection from enemy aircraft.

During the flights, the unmanned aircraft’s simulated armaments reportedly included infrared and radar homing heads.

“From the airstrip of the military airfield of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Combat Training and Combat Application Center at the Ashuluk training range, the Okhotnik performed several flights with functional simulators of guided air-to-air missiles,” Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti reported quoting a source. “In the combat version [of the drone], such missiles are designed to destroy other aircraft.”

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed test flights in August and September 2019 to assess its flight capabilities and operation of the main onboard systems, the outlet added.

The news agency, quoting a source, further said that the test flights “will make it possible to assess the coupling of the drone’s avionics with missile guidance systems and the lead Su-57 aircraft.”

Expected to Be in Service by 2024

State-run Sukhoi Design Bureau is developing the UAV, which is expected to be handed over to the defense forces by 2024.

“It has already been tested in conjunction with the Su-57 fifth-generation plane,” said Sergei Chemezov, the chief executive officer of Rostec, majority owner of Sukhoi’s parent company. “This is a cutting-edge drone that can fly to long ranges and be controlled both by an operator on the ground and by the crew of an aircraft operating in conjunction with it. The drone can also carry quite a powerful armament.”

Last year, the UAV had its debut flight on August 3. A month later, the aircraft flew with a Su-57, conducting automatic air maneuvers at an altitude of around 1,600 meters for half an hour.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the drone and the fighter practiced coordination “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” state-run TASS news agency reported.

The UAV has a takeoff weight of 20 tons with a length of 19 meters and a wingspan of 14 meters.

It can fly up to 1,000 kilometers per hour and features stealth technology including materials that reduce its radar signature and a flying wing design (it lacks the tail). It’s also outfitted with equipment for electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance, TASS reported.

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