The Russian heavy strike drone Okhotnik will be ready for deployment by the country’s armed forces by 2024, the state-run TASS news agency reported.
Andrey Yelchaninov, deputy chairman of the Board of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, confirmed the date during an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, TASS wrote.
The drone is under development by the Sukhoi Design Bureau to fly with the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter in a wingman role. A test was conducted between the drone and the aircraft in September 2019, a month after its debut flight.
In its debut flight, Okhotnik flew for over 20 minutes under an operator’s control. In its tandem flight with the Su-57, meanwhile, the aircraft flew in automated mode at an altitude of around 1,600 meters for over 30 minutes, TASS reported.
“These planes and drones can interact not only with each other but also in various types of combat formations,” Andrey Yelchaninov said in the interview.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the drone and fighter practiced coordination “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the state-run news agency reported.
Yelchaninov, meanwhile, said in the interview that soon, “there will be the possibility of controlling several Okhotnik drones from the Su-57 cockpit.”
The aircraft has demonstrated a range of capabilities during a series of recent test flights.
In December, Okhotnik flew with simulated air-to-air missiles for the first time.
A month later, the 20-ton heavy drone successfully dropped a half-ton unguided aerial bomb at a ground target.
The unmanned aerial vehicle has 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.